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I once knew a very likeable man who worked as an independent carpet installer. He handled every part of the business himself. He would go to a prospect's home with samples and let them choose the style and color they wanted. Usually he would show up next day with big rolls of that carpeting and he would install it wall-to-wall in the living-room, bedrooms and hallway. His prices were so reasonable and his work so satisfactory that he was getting more business than he could handle. Sometimes he would have a young assistant to help him, and sometimes he carried those heavy rolls of carpet by himself. In order to install wall-to-wall carpeting it is necessary to use a tool that the installer strikes with his knee to stretch the carpet into place. The installer was working nights and days. By night he would bring his samples to the customers' homes; by day he would install the wall-to-wall carpeting. He was making a lot of money, since he was self-employed and could keep all the profits. Instead of warning him that he was working too hard, people kept recommending him to others. He must have been working seven days a week. He had a wife and three or four children, but he didn't see much of them. Then it turned out that he had ruined both his kidneys from all the heavy lifting plus forcing the carpeting into place with the heavy tool he had to keep striking with his knee. While still a young man, he had to quit working and use a dialysis machine. His brother donated one of his kidneys. But the kidney was rejected, and so one man had no kidneys and his brother had only one. This story is an example of greed--but it was not a wicked kind of greed. The carpet installer was a good family man who just got carried away by the opportunities for enrichment. Like Pahom, he brought about his own destruction. He did not die like Pahom, but he was unable to work for the rest of his life and was dependent on the dialysis machine. There is an old saying that "Nothing succeeds like success." It might also be said that "Nothing fails like too much success." Tolstoy's story is a warning that it is easy for anyone to bring about his own misfortune by overestimating his capacity. In his old age, Tolstoy believed in a life of simplicity and humility, although he was a nobleman and owned a big estate.
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