A generous judge gave us all a lesson in community service.

In his 40 years on the bench, you can bet that Providence’s Municipal Court Chief Judge Frank Caprio has seen it all. Yet no matter how long he’s presided, there are always cases that tug at his heart.

Take for example Medina Bonafacia. Her car had been ‘booted,’ meaning a device was clamped to its wheel to prevent her from driving it. In her case, it was due to numerous driving violations.

Seeing that she was distressed, Caprio asked, “What’s the matter?”

“I’m just going through a lot right now, to be honest,” she replied.

A Struggling Homeless Woman Shares Her Story

That’s when a teary Bonafacia shared her hard-knock life. She said that she was being stalked and was currently homeless. She’d been staying with various family members but ‘they only let me stay for so long,’ forcing her to live in her car.

That was until her vehicle was booted, leaving her with not even a roof over her head. 

She said that she was working and that she had just got a job at a restaurant. However, being homeless and having other life issues were a strain. She added that she was hoping to ‘work out some sort of payment plan’ to at least keep her car, one of the last pieces of her life. 

“Well, you’ve gone through a lot based on what you’re telling me; how far did you go in school?” asked Caprio.

She said that she had completed up to the 12th grade, however, had to quit because of her violent relationship. She also mentioned that she is on the autism spectrum.

However, just when it looked like this story couldn’t get worse, a higher power stepped in to save the day.

How Judge Caprio Helped a Homeless Woman

When Caprio asked Bonafacia how much she could pay, she said, “I have like five dollars in my pocket.”

With the motivation to help, that’s when Caprio rendered a judgment that would leave her speechless.

Of the $400 Bonafacia owed, Caprio ruled that $300 will be paid from the ‘Philomena Fund’. It’s a fund named after his mother which the court can use for people in need. “And you certainly are in need,” he told her.

Even better, the amount was also enough for Bonafacia to retake her car. Almost unable to speak, she said, “Thank you so much, thank you.”

Caprio then asked her if she had any money to eat. She replied that she’d only been eating one meal a day, the free meal from working at the restaurant.

Motion to the next sweet surprise in Providence.

How a Stranger Interrupts the Court With an Offer

“Everybody deserves a chance in life, you know, it’s easy to be very strict and say ‘Well I’m sorry that’s it.’ I try to take people’s personal situations into account,” Caprio said to the defendant.

“I think you’ve had some challenges that are very difficult to face and you’ve been very forthright and very honest about them and that’s why I’m trying to help you.”

With that, he said that once Bonafacia leaves the courtroom, an additional $50 from the fund will be given to her so she can eat. 

Oh, but there was one more act cooking in this courtroom drama.

As Bonafacia was about to leave, a stranger in the courtroom approached the bench. His name was Gian Carlo and he had an offer. “I play in restaurants and I get free food,” he said, offering her the free meal he’d get that night.

While Bonafacia was speechless, Caprio said, “You understand and this gentleman is extraordinarily generous so we want to thank you for that.”

And with that, this case went from sad to a success.

How a Generous Judge Reminds Us All That Helping Is Our Duty

Just as things wrapped up, Caprio gave Bonafacia one small sentence.

“Okay, now that’s half the battle okay you have to do something else okay when things turn around for you, you have to help somebody.”

Among the quotes on kindness, one by Mary Davis reads, “We can’t heal the world today but we can begin with a voice of compassion, a heart of love, an act of kindness.”

Now that’s something we can all afford to pay forward.