“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” – Luke 12:48
One of the many legendary stories about Fiorello LaGuardia, the beloved, colorful Depression era mayor of New York City, occurred on a cold January night in 1935 when he turned up at a night court that happened to serve the poorest ward of the city. Dismissing the judge for the evening the mayor took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. LaGuardia sighed. He then turned to the woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions – ten dollars or ten days in jail. Simultaneously he reached into his own pocket producing the ten dollars to cover the fine. “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 that her grandchildren can eat.” The following day the newspapers reported that $47.50 had been collected and handed over to the bewildered old lady.
My first job in the financial business, the one that launched my career, was with a large regional bank in Fort Worth, Texas. A great legend about that fine institution, and one that defined its culture for years, was that during the Great Depression when banks were failing and unemployment was rampant, the bank’s leadership promised to do its best to remain solvent and not lay anyone off if the employees would agree to an across-the-board pay reduction. The employees unanimously agreed, and the bank kept its promise, saving many from financial ruin and starvation.
Every blessing carries with it a corresponding responsibility. Mayor LaGuardia, a blessed man himself, took great responsibility toward the well being of the citizens of his city, teaching others through his example to do the same. Likewise, the bank’s endeavors to uphold its employees and the community it served became so imbedded in its culture that later generations, like me, felt its impact. Beneath his signature on all his written communications my friend Charlie, a retired minister, always includes these words, “Go bless somebody today;” for we all have something to give that will bless the life of another, don’t we? “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.”