Parable about the Good:
Accomplished Good and Undone Good
In a provincial town, situated on the bank of a large river, there was a monastery. An elder, who was revered by many people as a saint, lived in that monastery. His name was Zosima. It was said that wonders happened by his words, that people’s lives changed for the better, and the souls became transformed!
One wealthy merchant, whose daughter was miraculously healed by Zosima, built a free hospital in that town. A lot of people came from far-off places to have a conversation with the elder, to ask for his advice. The help of God came to many through the words and actions of the elder and a large number of people, after conversing with him, changed their lives before the Face of God, trying to do good…
Yet another life existed in the same town. There were bars with drunken parties and murders. There were also those things that should not even be mentioned… And people multiplied their woes because they did not know the meaning of lives of souls in the bodies… They did not even think about this!… People — by their unjust lives — caused harm both to themselves and to others. And they passed by, without looking at other people’s troubles and did not think about what they were doing…
* * *
Once a young woman came to that free hospital.
In a reception room, she said that she needed to talk with the most important doctor.
A nurse who kept records said in response:
“You, my dear, must not go to him! We have another doctor for pregnant women! She is also very good, so you have nothing to worry about! She came here from the capital! Doctor Fyodor is very busy! He is a surgeon and performs very difficult surgeries. Now he has a heavy patient. So we shouldn’t distract him!
“No, I must talk with him,” — the young woman said, dropping her eyes. — “I can wait…”
“All right, I will book for you an appointment with him. What’s your name?”
In this moment, a tall handsome and broad-shouldered man in a white coat appeared in the doorway.
“Doctor Fyodor, you are just in time. Here is a woman looking for you!”
“Okay, let’s go to the room!
“Sit down. I’m listening to you! I hope it will not take too much time. I have a surgery soon.”
Doctor Fyodor sat in front of the woman and looked at her.
She, embarrassed, was crumpling the ends of her shawl, which covered her shoulders and very big belly.
“I need an operation, I cannot give birth to this child… I will lose my job at a hotel of Taisiya…”
She forced herself to say these words, turning pale and blushing, since it was well known that the so-called “hotel” was a famous place in the town where carouses took place. And, undoubtedly, the doctor knew this.
She expected a reaction of condemnation and contempt for her words, but it didn’t happen. The doctor was looking at her calmly, so Nadezhda continued:
“I went to Angelina. She always helped every one of us in such situations. But she sent me away, saying that it was too late and that she was not a killer…”
“So you came to me as to a ‘killer’, didn’t you?”
“No… I’m not saying this… Forgive me, please, forgive me!… But I have no choice! Help me!… I thought that he would really marry me, that a new life — different and pure — would start for me… That is why, I waited for so long!… I supposed that he was deceiving me. He just did it on a bet with his friends… I didn’t want to admit this… And now… I even saved some money! I’ll pay you! if it is not enough — then I will give you more later, how much you will say…”
“My dear, do you understand what you are suggesting to me? You offer me that which is contrary to my conscience and for which I will be put into jail! Do you want this hospital to be shut down after I commit this crime? Do you want me to take the life of this child who may be born very soon probably?
“Besides, you wanted this baby!…
“There are other ways out! You said that you had saved some money; this means you will have enough for the first time…
“I’m not good at carrying on edifying conversations. But I have no right to do what you are asking for! I simply can’t do this and do not want to…”
At that moment, someone knocked at the door:
“Doctor, we are ready for the surgery! We are waiting only for you!”
“Yes, I’m coming!”
“Sorry, I’ve understood this… Sorry…” — the young woman whispered with her lips that turned pale and went to the door…
Doctor Fyodor started walking towards the operating room with a fast pace, but suddenly the voice of the elder Zosima sounded inside him:
“And who will be responsible for the good that you haven’t done?”
Doctor Fyodor looked back at the exiting woman.
He understood her thoughts. He dealt many times with those who were pulled out from the noose at the last moment or saved after self-poisoning…
He turned back and, with a brisk pace, came up with the departing woman, took her shoulders and slowly turned her around. He saw her pale, but very beautiful face, her hopeless eyes…
“Wait! Listen to me! Now I have no time, but promise me that you will wait for me here. After the operation, we will talk. Or shall I lock you up so that you can’t do anything bad to yourself? We will find some solution! Be sure! If you want — I’ll allow you to work here: to clean, to take care of the sick… There are no hopeless situations, but just spiritual blindness! And life is given to us by God for a very important purpose! And we need to find that important purpose and accomplish it! You are so young and beautiful! You must understand this right now! Sit down here — and wait for me! And do not try to leave!”
“I’ll wait…” — Nadezhda whispered in a trembling voice, and tears rushed into her eyes.
* * *
The operation was successful, and the thoughts of doctor Fyodor turned back to the problem posed for him by the young woman:
“Well, what will happen if I allow her to work here? She will give birth. Then she will try to start love affairs with doctors, with patients… Then she will leave her child and come back to her former life…
“Will I be able to bring up this child as mine? Will I have strength for this? I myself could not create my own family yet because no woman could accept my way of life, in which the hospital has turned into my most important ‘beloved’…
“Yet a child requires care and love!
“Maybe, of course, this woman would change herself, but would she want to?
“I do not know how to explain such things to people but I should. Right now I must find the appropriate words… The elder Zosima can explain how to find the right way out of a blind alley. Once he saved me too…”
* * *
Memories flooded doctor Fyodor:
It was ten years ago. He was a young and very successful surgeon in one of the famous clinics of the capital. But suddenly a patient died on the operating table…
Fyodor was not officially accused by anyone. His colleagues tried to comfort him, saying that this happens to all doctors, that it is their inevitable life experience…
But Fyodor could not stand it. He left his job and moved out of the capital to a place where no one knew him… There he began to drink incessantly… It was the end: no vestige of hope was left, darkness was from all sides…
He didn’t remember who told him about the elder, but Fyodor suddenly decided to visit him.
When he came to Zosima, he expected to hear some comforting words, to receive the forgiveness of his sins…
However, he heard something opposite:
“Do you ask to forgive your sin? But who will answer to God for the good that was not done by you?”
… Fyodor again recalled clearly with details everything that happened then. He bluntly said:
“I killed a person…”
He poured out these terrible words and lapsed into silence… He felt pity for himself and for his ruined life…
“Yes… How could you be a good doctor if your hands are shaking because of vodka…” — the elder replied quietly.
Then he looked so kindly into his eyes — as if he addressed a man who had worked as a doctor, who had seen a bright future ahead and dreamed about saving people…
“How do you know that I’m a doctor?”
“No, you are no longer a doctor! You are now like a coward who pities himself and who has betrayed his work!…”
“I have come to get your advice, but you….”
“I’m just telling you the truth! Are you scared of it? Are you drinking vodka in order not to see the truth?
“If we start covering with vodka every one of our sins — a multitude of even more terrible sins would only grow!
“Will you listen to me or have you just come to get some consolation from me?”
“I came to confess… I don’t know how to live with such a sin…”
“Then confess: what do you think your sin was?”
“It was my mistake! If I had not made this mistake — that person would have survived!… But he… died right away…”
“And if you had not performed that surgery — would he survive?”
“No, he would die too… But not right away…”
“… He would be dying for a long time and in agony…”
“Maybe. But if I had done everything alright — he would have survived and would have been healthy… So it turns out that I am a killer.”
“God determines the time when the soul should leave its body! And you, as a doctor, had many chances to see how patients who should not survive according to all medical rules survived and recovered! Or, vice versa, a patient who should recover died suddenly because his or her heart had stopped or something similar had happened. Sometimes even healthy people die and sometimes even terminal patients recover.
“Nothing happens without God’s Will for this! This Will is carried out, among other ways, through different — good or bad — people: through their work, their feats, their crimes or their errors.
“The feeling of one’s own guilt is useful for the soul since regret comes in this way. Yet afterwards this person should keep living and correcting that which can be corrected!
“But if, instead of this, one digs a grave for oneself out of one’s own guilt and put a tombstone on it, it will be great harm both to this soul and to everyone around.
“People are accustomed to blaming themselves only for that evil which they have done. But we also must answer to God for that good which we might have done but didn’t do!
“So decide now: the Lord will be able to bring many people who need your help to you if you overcome your weaknesses and your pity for yourself and begin to do again that service for which you were called!”
… Fyodor saw some pictures floating in front of him: many people — children, young ones and old ones — become healthy thanks to him…
Zosima continued, as if he knew what Fyodor had seen with the eyes of the soul:
“They all are people who will die before the term if you do not come back to your work! Your fault before God will be great if you do not save those to whom you could help but wouldn’t do this, because you have left your most important service!
“Now you can easily ruin yourself by drinking and indulging your worthlessness! It is easy for you to betray your vocation! It is much easier not to change yourself, leave everything as it is and cry until the end of your days since ‘everything is so bad’! But it is similar to the situation when one does not treat a disease of one’s body! In this case, this disease will inevitably become worse and worse! As a result, this body will die soon!
“The same happens when someone does not treat a disease of the soul.
“This problem then will remain unresolved even after the death of the body because the soul is immortal, and it will have to hold the answer for its life before God!
“If you do not transform yourself and do not save yourself from such fatal flaws as fear, sadness, lack of willpower or others — your destiny will become worse and worse!
“No matter how strongly someone tries to ignore the problem put before that person by God, he or she inevitably will have to understand it and resolve it in the future!
“Hurry to help yourself and others! Don’t spill in vain the ‘water of life’ given to you by God for important service!
“People think that only the evil that they have done is a sin before other people and God. But the undone good is also a sin!
“For example, one man is drowning in a river, and another man capable of helping him sees this. If he doesn’t save a drowning man, then without a doubt the undone good will result in death.
“Another example is when some children are suffering from hunger in a nearby house or when a cruel person does an injustice.
“If we look around with attention — we will see so many woes of people! Those woes they carry inside themselves or create and multiply around… Souls are drowning in their woes! Some people see those woes, some don’t… When we live being concentrated only on our own sorrows, we do not see suffering around us, suffering that we can relieve!
“On the contrary, when we seek to help others, God’s Help comes to us!
“Still we shouldn’t do good foolishly, but with discernment! We need to learn this discernment! Maybe, during our entire lives we have to master it!…
“To do good doesn’t mean only to pull someone out of a river or heal some terrible disease. Sometimes even a word said in time can prevent someone from committing a terrible deed! Sometimes we just need to listen silently to someone, and this person will understand even without our help where the good is, where the evil is, and where the truth or falsehood is!
“Jesus could speak with people in that way.
“God can help someone rise even from the very depths of vices and sins! For example, Paul the Apostle was a murderer and persecutor of Christians. But he recognized God in Jesus, Whom he heard once, and managed to change himself!
“There is the highest purpose in our lives: to rise to the state of Christ!
“Not everyone can start living like this immediately, but everyone can try to cleanse and transform oneself!
“Besides, everyone has a possibility to help his or her neighbors!
“Every soul has its vocation in the earthly life. Some can heal diseases, some can build houses, some can teach children, some draw pictures, some compose songs or music.
“When a person finds that vocation which can bring the most love and kindness to other people — this person becomes happy because of his or her work! And there is a lot of benefit to everyone around from the work of that person, even if he or she only bakes bread or cleans the streets! The one who cultivates land or lays out gardens is also happy and righteous before God! The same is with the one who can hear by the soul the Divine music and tries to convey it to people. The same is with the one who raises children and gives them education.
“And your lot is to heal people from diseases! And if you do not fulfill this purpose of your life — then it will be your great fault before those who could be saved and rescued through you!
“Do you want me to help you now?”
“Yes, I do.”
“A rich merchant built a hospital in our town. He pays salaries to the doctors and nurses, and everything should be free for all patients. This hospital may become very good if a good doctor heads it. It’s true that here is not a capital and that person would not be able to reap a lot of glory… Do you agree to head this hospital?”
“I am?… Will I be able to manage it?”
“Alone — you won’t, but with God’s Help — you will. It won’t be easy! But it may become good! Additionally, I impose penance on you for your sin: you must never drink any alcohol until your death!
“Now choose by yourself either you dig your own grave or save others from death!
“Have you decided?”
“I will try to fulfill it!”
“Do you understand what is necessary for all this to be accomplished? God’s Will? Yes. But not only that! Your work, your daily efforts are needed! In other words, by your hands — God can create here many wonderful things!
“If you do not start this work, then who will do it instead of you?”
… Fyodor remembered how the elder spoke with him: in some moments sternly, in some moments gently, like a mother with a small child…
Zosima succeeded in turning him to a new life! He was saved from the hellish nightmare and born again, so to speak! Since then he never drank alcohol! And the faith in himself and in God came back! And the hospital had been working well for ten years already! And hundreds of lives were saved! And how many good people were brought by God and worked now with him!
* * *
“Lord, help me to find right words!” — Fyodor thought and with a deep sigh went to the place where his morning visitor was waiting for him.
Suddenly he saw the gentle eyes of Zosima and relaxed completely. Such calm usually descended upon him before difficult operations. In these cases, the rush of thoughts disappeared; everything inside him became gathered into one single state and every action was accurately determined by his intuition.
He entered the room where Nadezhda waited for him.
She was sitting near a window, and her face was shining with amazing beauty and tenderness.
Fyodor realized that she had already made her decision: she would give birth and bring up this child. No matter what he would say now, the main thing was already decided!
He sat down in front of her. The weariness of the operation receded, but he still did not know what to say…
She lifted her eyes of amazing beauty and quietly asked:
“How was your operation? Is everything all right?”
“Yes, I hope that everything will be all right.”
“I, too, will be all right!” — she said smiling affectionately to something new, yet unknown and beautiful. — “Thank you, you helped me a lot! I will find some job by myself! I will sew at home or find something else…
She smiled again gently:
“I will go…”
“Wait a minute! Will you marry me?”
She looked at Fyodor probably as Mary Magdalene looked at Jesus when people wanted to stone her but He stood up for her…
* * *
Soon after the wedding, in the family of doctor Fyodor and Nadezhda a daughter was born. She was named Sophia. Zosima baptized her and that is why, perhaps, everyone began to call this girl affectionately Zosya…
But that’s another story…