What Men Live By
Another short story by Tolstoy, What Men Live By deals with a poor shoemaker who is forced to visit some of his customers in hopes of receiving payment that he is owed. Unfortunately, the customers don’t pay up. He gets hooked by a particular customer who appears to live better than his family does but still refuses to pay him back his wages. Along the way, he encounters a pale, naked man who is clearly in need. He puts his coat on him and takes him home. The whole journey home, he’s nervous about his wife’s reaction given he hasn’t gotten the money and is bringing another mouth home to feed. While his wife is initially angry, she is reminded by her husband that it’s a sin to be so angry and asks her if there is any God in her? Her attitude shifts. When she gives the man food and clothes, he smiles for the first time. We later learn the stranger is the angel, Michael. Through Michael's experiences with the family, he learns through his time on earth that “all men live, not by reason of any care they have for themselves, but by the love they have for other people.” The themes of compassion and loving others is important in the eyes of God. When we reflect this love with others it can transform not only the people we’re helping, but also ourselves.