Martin the Cobbler

Written in 1885 by Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy entitled this story: Where Love is There God is also!

In a certain town there lived a very honest cobbler called Martin. He lived in a tiny basement room. Its only window looked out onto the street. Of the passers-by all he could see was their feet. But since there was hardly a pair of boots or shoes that had not passed through his hands at one time or another for repair, Martin was able to identify the passers-by by looking at their shoes.

But life had been hard on Martin. His wife died, leaving him with a young son. However, no sooner had the son reached the age when he could be of help to his father than he fell ill and died. Martin buried him and gave way to despair, taking to the bottle at the same time. He gave up the practice of his religion. But one day an old friend of his dropped in. Martin poured out his soul to him. At the end of it his friend advised him to do a little reading from the Gospels each day, promising that if he did so, light and hope would come back into his life.

Where Love is, there God is also. Where Love is not, we are called to make the appropriate sacrifices, to go out of our way, to put it there. Martin took his friend’s advice. At the end of each day he would take down the gospels from the shelf and read a little. At first he meant only to read on Sundays, but he found it so interesting that he soon read everyday. Slowly his life changed. He gave up drink. The words of Christ created new hope for him and the deeds of Christ were like lights that drove out his darkness.

One night as Martin sat reading he thought he heard someone calling him. He listened and heard clearly: “Martin, Martin, look out into the street tomorrow for I will come to visit you.” He looked around the tiny room, and since there was no one to be seen he reckoned it must be the Lord Himself who had spoken to him.

So it was with a great sense of excitement that he sat down to his work the next day. As he worked he kept a close eye on the window. He was looking for something or someone special. But nothing exciting happened. Just the usual people passed by going about their everyday business.

The day wore on and nobody special passed by. In the early afternoon he saw a pair of old boots that were very familiar to him. They belonged to an old soldier called Stephen. Going to the window he looked up and saw the old man hitting his hands together for it was bitterly cold outside. Martin wished that he would move on, for he was afraid he might obstruct his view and that he would not see the Lord when he passed. But old Stephen just stood there by the railing. Finally it occurred to Martin that maybe Stephen had nothing to eat all day. So he tapped on the window and beckoned him to come in. He sat him by the fire and gave him tea and bread. Stephen was most grateful. He said he hadn’t eaten for two whole days. As he left Martin gave him his second overcoat as a shield against the biting cold.

But all the time Martin was entertaining Stephen he had not forgotten the window. Every time a shadow fell on it he looked up but nobody extraordinary passed. Night fell, Martin finished his work and very reluctantly closed the window shutters.

After supper he took down the Gospels and as was his custom he opened the Gospels and read at random. After reading for some time Martin put down the book and reflected. The words of the Lord came to him: “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was naked and you clothed me”. He understood then that Christ had indeed come to him that day in the person of Stephen, and that he had made him welcome. And his heart was filled with a peace he had never before experienced.

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This story, which many of us know as the animated story Martin the Cobbler was originally written in 1885 by Leo Tolstoy. The Original title is very interesting. Tolstoy entitled this children’s story: Where Love is There God is also!

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