LaGuardia Story

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Sister Elaine Jack

Brothers and sisters, people matter.

To the Lord, there is no distinction between school, church and home. They are all three forums to exercise compassion, kindness, generosity, patience, understanding. In Relief Society we emphasize, "Charity Never Faileth." Charity is not the exclusive province of the poor, unless we are talking "the poor in heart. . . . the poor in spirit" and then charity is right at home. Charity unites us at our most vulnerable moments, because charity is the pure love of Christ.

I have always been fond of a story from the era of the Great Depression. The Mayor of New York City, Fiorella LaGuardia was an unusual leader. New York named an airport after him and perhaps that has something to do with how he cared for his people. While in office he sometimes presided at the Police Court just to keep in touch with what was happening in the streets. One bitter cold day the officers brought in a trembling, ragged man charged with stealing a loaf of bread. He defended his actions by explaining that his family was starving.

"I've got to punish you," declared LaGuardia. "The law makes no exception." So he fined the man ten dollars. But, as he said that, the Mayor reached into his pocket and brought out a $10 dollar bill which he tossed into his hat. "The fine is paid," he said. "And I'm going to fine everybody in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a man has to steal bread in order to eat. The Bailiff passed the hat and the incredulous man, with a light of heaven in his eye, left the courtroom with forty-seven dollars and fifty cents.

In the New Testament we read of the Lord's interaction with those who appeared to be unworthy or not to care about his message: the woman taken in adultery, the rich young man who went away sorrowful. "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd."  The Lord said, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me."

Story shared by Sister Elaine Jack at BYU-Idaho Devotional, April 10, 2001