Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I’m sure every person cherishes a story, a song, a poem, which have read or heard during their childhood. I would like to share a precious gem, Leo Tolstoy’s “What Men Live By,” which I have read several times. It has left a deep impact on my outlook. Tolstoy narrates the life of a modest shoemaker, Simon, who one day leaves for the city to collect money from his debtors. His wife threatens to divorce him if he does not bring back a fur coat for her.
Unfortunately, Simon returns empty-handed. On his way while passing a ruined chapel, he notices a young gentleman almost naked. He hurries to get rid of him, and while doing so, suddenly questions himself: “Why you are in rush and afraid, when you yourself have nothing to be robbed?”
He comes back to the sojourner and asks him what he was doing in solitude in this harsh weather. The answer was stunning: “I don’t have any place to go.” Simon takes pity and covers him with his old cloth and invites him to his home. His wife notices from afar that her husband not only had not fulfilled her demand but was escorting a poor stranger. At the entrance she yells at him that “enough is enough” and while preparing to leave to go to her parents’ home, she casts a glance at this extremely disgraced creature. She turns back and prepares some food, and for the first time, the stranger smiles. The next day, Simon asks the stranger’s name and profession, and learns that his name is Michael, but to Simon’s surprise, Michael does not have any knowledge of a trade or work.
Simon decides to teach Michael what he knows about being a shoemaker, and within a very short time, Michael becomes a professional shoemaker attracting customers from near and afar. One day, a noble man comes to Simon’s store. Michael greets the nobleman who orders a pair of heavy boots and provides very expensive leather to make them. The nobleman threatens that if anything wrong happens to the leather, Simon will pay with his own life. Michael looks at the nobleman and just smiles. Simon, who is terrified, begs Michael to work with extra attention. Unfortunately, the renowned apprentice appears to make a grave error, and instead of crafting heavy boots, he makes a pair of soft slippers. Simon is envisioning his death when he hears the servants of the nobleman ringing the bell. Simon opens the door, and the servants frantically ask if the heavy boots have already been finished? Before Simon can answer, the servants say that the nobleman has suddenly died, and they must now have a pair of slippers for the burial. How did Michael know?
A couple of days later, Michael, who was not used to raising his head and looking outside of the window, very quietly watches a lady holding the hands of two girls entering the store. The woman wants to order two sets of shoes. As Michael takes the measurements, he notices that there was something wrong with the ankle of one of the girls, and asks if it was due to an accident? The lady tells him that she is not their mother but has adopted the two young girls, and that their mother, at her sudden death, had fallen on the one girl and crushed her foot, causing the girl to be lame and deformed. The lady had pity on the girls and took them into her care. Michael again smiles and begins to work on the two pairs of complete shoes for the girls.
The next morning, Michael thanks Simon for his hospitality, and informs him that he is leaving. Simon is saddened and asks forgiveness if he has given Michael any cause to be disappointed. Michael, with a serene smile says, “No, master, you have done only well.” At that moment, his identity is revealed that he is in fact the Archangel Michael. God had commissioned him to escort souls from earth and bring them to heaven. It seems that the soul of the lady who had adopted the girls was being called to heaven, but on seeing that the lady had extended such love and kindness toward the two orphaned girls, Michael chose to leave her on earth and to return to heaven.
When Michael appeared before God, God punished him because Michael returned without completing the assigned mission and sent him to earth to learn three things from his sojourn. Since then, he had smiled three times.
“The first thing I learned,” says Michael, “was when I discovered that no matter how human beings might be filled with evil, yet they also possess goodness within them. I acknowledged this when I noticed that how your wife, within a second, was transformed from anger to peace.”
“The second thing I learned was that human beings often try to act like gods when they are not even in control of their own lives. The nobleman who threatened you with death did not know that the very same evening he would die.”
“The third thing I learned from the lady who had adopted the two babies for whose sake I was punished, was that despite all misfortunes, the Almighty God takes care for all His children and the entire Creation.”
Michael concludes, saying, “I have now understood that though it seems to men that they live by care for themselves, in truth, it is love alone by which they live. He who has love, is in God, and God is in him, for God is love.”
I hope that this cozy story touches your hearts and minds with the positive spirit of love, goodness, and generosity, especially in these days when our brothers and sisters are badly suffering due to the catastrophic earthquake and following twelve years of civil war across Syria. I feel deeply relieved that as of today, by the miracle of Love, our Syrian Armenian Relief Fund has reached the amount of $98,853.
May the Holy Right Hand of the Providential and Caring celestial Father be always over us in order to be renewed by the miracle of Love and transform the terrible weight of suffering and loss of our beloved ones through the lever of Hope.