Paying the Fines

Once when Mr. LaGuardia, the famous ex-mayor of New York, was presiding at a police court, they brought a trembling old man before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. He said his family was starving.

“Well, I’ve got to punish you,” said Mr. LaGuardia. “The law makes no exception, and I can do nothing but sentence you to a fine of ten dollars.”

Then he added, after reaching into his pocket, “and here’s the ten dollars to pay your fine. And now I remit the fine.”

Then, tossing the ten dollar bill into his famous outsized hat, he said, “Furthermore, I’m going to fine everybody in this courtroom 50 cents for living in a town where a man has to steal bread in order to eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines, and give them to this defendant.”

The hat was passed, and the incredulous old man, with a light of heaven in his eyes, left the court room with $47.50.

We are all like that old man. We have made mistakes. They are called “sin.” We are all guilty. A fine has been assigned. But a loving Judge has already paid the penalty, and blessed us with far more than $47.50.

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