I heard a story about former New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and would like to share with you.
One winter night in 1935, LaGuardia paid a visit to night court in the poorest section of the city. He told the judge to take the night off, took his seat on the bench, and presided over the night’s cases himself.
Soon a tired, despondent elderly woman appeared before him because she had been charged with stealing a loaf of bread. In her own defense, she said, “My daughter’s husband left her. She is sick, and her children are hungry.”
The storekeeper had no mercy. With a sigh, LaGuardia said to the woman, “The law is clear. I have to punish you.”
He fined her ten dollars. As he was pronouncing the woman’s sentence, LaGuardia was simultaneously reaching into his pocket to pull out a ten-dollar bill. He dropped it into his hat and said:
“Here’s the ten-dollar fine, which I now remit, and furthermore, I’m going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant!”
The total collected for the grandmother was $47.50.
I like the fact that the mayor of New York City used his position of authority to influence others to help the poor grandmother. Any time we can inspire or provoke others to do good, we need to do so.