WHENEVER we call attention in the pages of this paper to a particular family or individual in desperate circumstances, our readers respond with heartening generosity. For example, last Sunday's Post carried the story of the Dellingers, a young family in Winchester, Va., trying to scrape by on food stamps and the small disability payment received by their retarded son. Like millions of other Americans, the father of the family is out of work and can't find a job.

In the last few days, the reporter who wrote the story, Don Nunes, has received dozens of phone calls and letters -- some containing substantial checks -- from people wanting to help the Dellingers. One of the letters also encouraged the reporter to "write another article expressing the hard fact that people in general, neighbors and friends will have to pull together in these critical times in order to survive."

We thought that was an important message. This newspaper and others like it have a duty to point out to readers the tough circumstances that other people find themselves caught in. But we can only draw attention to perhaps one among a million similar cases. Many people now find themselves, like the Dellingers, exhausting their unemployment benefits and personal resources and despairing of finding a decent job. Many others in low-paying jobs have lost eligibility for the small amounts of food stamps and cash assistance that used to help them make ends meet. Still others -- such as those described in another article in Sunday's paper -- face the loss of medical assistance that enabled them to get treatment for their handicapped children or life-sustaining medicine for themselves.

Help for all these people should not depend upon their luck in being chosen as an illustrative case in a newspaper story or--like the elderly couple in Los Angeles facing eviction--being noticed by the president on the evening news. That is why, over the last few decades, the country supported expansion of the responsibility of government to see that basic kinds of assistance are made available on an even-handed basis. (It is worth noting, by the way, that the elderly couple whose plight so moved the president was being helped by the legal services program for which he proposes to end all federal aid next year.)

>Now that governmental help is being sharply reduced, it is up to communities to organize themselves better to find out about the hardship frequently hidden in their midst. The next step is to do something about it. Next time you read a sad story in this paper, don't send us a check-- please. Find some people around you who are in trouble. Offer to help them--and others like them.