Today, I am going to narrate a story which I presume will touch every heart. The helplessness of an old woman, the pain of a starving family, the final decision of a judge and the understanding and compassionate nature of the people. All of this makes this story one of a kind. The story that I am going to narrate will be in the form of a dialogue.
This story is known as “The night trial in New York” in 1935. On a cold January evening in 1935, a trial was held in New York City. An old, weak and tattered looking woman named “Lilly” was on trial for stealing a loaf of bread. She looked sad and hidden in the sadness was shame of committing a crime.
The mayor of New York City “Fiorello LaGuardia” happened to be the judge that night. He asked her, “Did you steal the loaf of bread?’’ The woman lowered her head and said, “That’s right, your honor, I did steal the loaf of bread.” The Judge then asked her, “What was your motive behind stealing the loaf of bread? Were you hungry? “. Looking at the Judge, the woman said, “Yes, I was hungry, but I didn’t steal the loaf of bread for myself.” My son-in-law abandoned his family, my daughter fell sick, and their two children were starving. They hadn’t eaten in days. I couldn’t stand seeing them hungry; they are still so young.”
By the time she finished speaking, the whole courtroom had fallen silent. The Judge told the woman, “Everyone is equal under the law”. For stealing the loaf of bread, you can choose to either pay a $10 fine or go to prison for 10 days.” She said: “Your honor I am willing to be punished for what I have done… but respectfully, if I had a $10 I wouldn’t have stolen the bread. I am willing to go to jail. My only concern is who will take care of my daughter and grandchildren while I’m in jail?” The judge paused for a moment and leaned back in his chair. He then reached into his pocket, pulled out a $10 note and held it up for the court to see. He said loudly and assertively, “With this $10 note I will pay for your punishment, you are free to leave.” He turned to the people in the courtroom and proclaimed: “In addition, I charge each person in the court 50 cents as a penalty for the indifference and ignorance in this community. An old woman should not have to steal bread to feed her family. Mr. Baillif, go collect the money and give it to the accused.”
50 cents each came from the owner of the grocery store where the woman stole the loaf of bread, as well as from a dozen other defendants awaiting trial, and several police officers. They all felt honored to contribute 50 cents and stood up to warmly and happily applaud the verdict. The next day the story was featured in a New York City newspaper, which reported that the amount of $47.50 had been given to the poor, accused old woman. The judge’s decision or discretion made a point of how complicit people had become in the suffering of others and how all are accountable in the crime. The message spread throughout the city. And, the beautiful story ends here.
The essence of the story is that, we are all connected in this world, if one suffers, so do we all. If one does well in life, then it takes the support of a lot of people. We as a global community, as one family cannot do without another. We should rather support each other in living a safe and a happy life. And, it is up to us to ensure that no person, family or community goes unnoticed. It’s easy for us to look after our own material benefits and not pay attention to the needs of others. What takes huge effort, is to think about of others too and not harm them. The point which is also to be remembered here is that “Goodness without utility leads to exploitation and goodness with utility leads to respect”. So be good but do not let anyone trample over you or walk over you or take advantage of you. Also, what should be remembered is that “Goodness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”- Mark Twain
Do remember sharing is caring! See you all with my next post!