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November 10, 1997

Drilling Down

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Fiorello H. La Guardia, New York City’s mayor in 1935, didn’t have to be so kind. But something in him—a powerful power of one urge maybe—lead him to do so one night in the poorest area of New York City, where he presided. According to Our Daily Bread (April 4, 1992), La Guardia showed up in court and sent the other judge home for the evening.

Taking the bench, La Guardia learned that his first case involved an elderly woman who was arrested for stealing bread. He asked her whether she was guilty. He heard: “I needed the bread, Your Honor, to feed my grandchildren.” The mayor had to punish the lady. “Ten dollars or ten days in jail,” he said.

With those words the judge put $10 into his hat. He then fined every person in the courtroom 50 cents. The reason? Because they all lived in a city “where a grandmother has to steal food to feed her grandchildren.” In all, La Guardia collected $57.50—enough to pay the woman’s fine and send her home with some extra money

La Guardia could have been harsh and demanded that the woman go to jail if she couldn’t pay the fine. But kindness was strong in him. He felt compassion, and he acted. How often have you used your position of power to do good? Does your goodness extend to everyone …everywhere…or just a select few?

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