Noodle* on this…
Humanity’s legacy of stories and storytelling is the most precious we have. All wisdom is in our stories and songs. A story is how we construct our experiences. ~ Doris Lessing
Stories have the power to move us to action, to inspire us, to teach us and to give us hope. As a writer, I’m not a very good story teller. I am more of a reporter of facts and concepts. But, I know a good story when I read or hear one and my sister Andrea shared the following story with me. It may be true or it may be urban legend; not even Mayor LaGuardia’s biographers know for sure. But, it is a lovely story. So, read and enjoy it.
In the middle of the Great Recession, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, worked to understand what life was like for all the people living in the city. It was not unusual for him to ride with the fire fighter, go on raids with the police and take field trips with orphans. On a bitterly cold night in January, 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took the bench. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told the Mayor that her daughter’s husband had deserted the family; her daughter was sick and could not work; and her two grandchildren were starving.
However, the store owner, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a real bad neighborhood, Your Honor,” the man told the Mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”
LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days on jail.” But, even as he pronounced the sentence, he reached into his pocket. He took out a bill and tossed it into his hat, which was sitting on the bench, saying, “Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”
The following day, New Your City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered woman who had stolen a loaf a bread to feed her starving grandchildren. Fifty cents of that amount came from the store owner along with money from petty criminals, people with traffic violations and New York City police officers, all of whom gave the Mayor a standing ovation.
Your Weekly Noodle Challenge…
You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it. ~ Margaret Atwood
Now, it is your turn. You have a story – one that inspired, moved you to action, or taught you an important lesson. It may be a personal experience or story you read or heard. Share that story with us in the Comments section. If the story is not personal, please include a source citation for the story, so we can give credit where it is due. For example, the source for the Mayor LaGuardia story comes from snope.com. I’ll share the stories in Your Weekly Noodle.
* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm
- Typewriter image courtesy of Gibbons Whistler
- LaGuardia image courtesy of University of Minnesota Maxine Rudd’s Displaced Persons Images
- Stories to Tell image courtesy of Trystan Owain Hughes