Our mother, who is 58, still beautiful, witty, bright, a published writer, and recently widowed, is job-hunting. But she is looking in the want ads for a position as housekeeper, cook or personal maid.

We are in distress, all seven of us. Our father left her with two houses, a houseful of furniture, two cars and $1,600 per month. No bills except for taxes and living expenses.Our mother feels service is not demeaning. She loves to cook and run a house. She could make up to $1,800 per month, plus room and board. She would just like to immerse herself in a cozy home for a couple of years and save her salary.

We are not looking forward to introducing our mother to friends as "the cook for -" or "-'s housekeeper." She might even end up working for the parents of friends in our social circle.

Is this a supreme folly on our mother's part, or are we being stuffy?

GENTLE READER - Stuffy? No, that's not quite the word that comes to Miss Manners' mind. Could it be "insufferable"?

In contrast, your mother sounds splendid. Miss Manners doesn't need a housekeeper (and warns the millions of people who do not to write in, because she doesn't have your mother's name or address), but she would like to have such a wise and gallant lady as a friend.

Your mother's pluck in turning bereavement into a chance to be of service to others, in the way she happens to choose, is as fortunate for her own happiness as it will be for the lucky recipients.

Miss Manners does not understand what you mean in your cracks about "service." She dares to say that you did not consider it demeaning when your mother cooked and cared for you.

She does, however, understand your fear of having your mother find employment in your own social circle. With your attitudes, you may well suffer by comparison when your friends get to know her.

But surely that is more than compensated for by the pride you will have in being able to introduce such a lady as your mother.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - My grandson asked me to contribute to a particular charity where he lives, so that he could participate in a bike-a-thon. I promptly sent a check - then heard nothing.

The endorsed check eventually came back. I told him he certainly should have thanked me - I never would have contributed had he not asked me.

He asked why he should thank me, since he got nothing, though maybe the organization should have written me a note. But even if it had, I still say he should have thanked me.

Help! Help!

GENTLE READER - It seems to Miss Manners that your grandson needs help more urgently than you do. If he believes that only financial gain requires gratitude, and that kind favors do not, he is soon going to kill any generous impulses others may have toward him. If you still do have any such impulses, the best favor you could do him would be to explain this.

- Are you unsure about tipping? Miss Manners' pamphlet, "On Tipping," explains who should be tipped and how much. It is available for $1.50 from Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper, P.O. Box 91428, Cleveland, OH 44101-3428.

- Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions other than through this column.