Money is the root-te-toot of all evil

IN the mail a few weeks ago I received a large envelope with a message that read, ``If Guernsey Le Pelley returns the winning number before Oct. 16, 1987, Guernsey Le Pelley shall be paid $10 million! Hurry - delay could be costly. Guernsey Le Pelley is the guaranteed winner of $10 million....'' Now, when a person in my income bracket (well, what I have is not so much a bracket as a shoe box under the bed) sees a sum like $10 million written out in connection with his name, he gets weak in the knees and needs someone on each side to hold him up. It's a real shocker.

Of course, after I opened the envelope the part I couldn't read was revealed. It said, ``Guernsey Le Pelley is the guaranteed winner of $10 million only if the enclosed entry is the grand prize winner and is returned before the date on the gold seal above.'' Well, they weren't just going to hand me $10 million after all. There was no need to worry about sending in the entry.

I felt rather bad having to disappoint Ed McMahon, who seemed to know me. At least he seemed very concerned that I wouldn't send in the gold seal on time and someone else would win the (don't say it out loud) $10 million. He said he wanted to hand it to me himself. Personally. The last thing I want to do is offend a nice guy like Ed McMahon, and I hope he takes it all right.

But I spoke to a friend of mine who said he had gotten the same kind of envelope with the same offer and Ed McMahon also knew his name. If millions and millions of these are sent out, the bright glow of anticipation dims a little. I tossed the envelope into the wastebasket with a tinge of regret. One hates to snuff out the candle of hope completely. But one satisfying gleam does then enter one's consciousness, because this is a grand, unselfish act. By not sending in my entry, I increase the chances of whoever is the final grand prize winner.

Though not quite the same as giving up $10 million just so someone else can have it, it is no small gesture.

Oh, I tell myself there isn't any possible way I would have been handed the money by my friend Ed McMahon, not with all those millions of other people.

But one never knows for sure.

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