A Grandma's Justice - New York Style#

In the winter of 1935, the United States reeled from the throes of the Great Depression.  

Fiorello La Guardia presided as New York's mayor during those dark days. He was completely unpredictable, a man full of surprises.

On a most miserable evening he attended a night court within one of New York's poorest wards. He dismissed the presiding judge for the evening, sending him home to his family. 

The mayor himself had chosen to sit at the bench.

A tattered old woman stood before him, accused of stealing a loaf of bread. These were desperate times. With quivering lips and tear filled eyes she pleaded - 'guilty'.  

In self-defense she added:

my daughter’s husband has deserted her, she is sick and her children cry from hunger.

The shopkeeper however, refused to drop the charges:

the law must be upheld, she’s got to be punished to teach other people a lesson.

La Guardia knew that her accuser was right. The very office that he swore to uphold required he enforce the letter of the law.

La Guardia sighed, turned to the kind grandmother and through sad eyes said:

I have to punish you, the law makes no exceptions.

Then he pronounced the sentence. The old woman shuddered when she heard these words:

ten dollars or ten days in jail.

But already judge La Guardia was reaching into his pocket and extracted a ten-dollar bill, he then threw it into his hat: 

here’s the ten-dollar fine, which I now remit. Furthermore I’m fining everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr Bailiff collect the fines and pass them to the defendant.

Sitting in the courtroom that night were about seventy petty criminals, a few New York policemen and her accuser - a now fuming, red-faced storekeeper.

The bewildered old grandmother left the courtroom with $47.50, sufficient to buy groceries for several months.

So moved by the woman’s plight was the mayor that he himself was willing to release her from debt whilst ensuring the law was upheld.

That woman – on that day at least – was well served by her mayor; he declared her right with the state because he himself was willing to absorb the penalty for her guilt.

Just pause for a moment:

if ever you thought your past, your brokenness or your habits impeded God's love and grace - stop and recall an unnamed grandmother who felt such love and grace first hand from a human mayor, how much moreso from God?

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Today's Soul Snippet:

"Embarrassment is the feeling you get while burning off your ego". ~ Alastair McIntosh

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# Reproduced with gracious permission from a sermon by Bishop Stuart Robinson (with SoulSupply edits)