The Farmer Who Was Overcome by Greed
There is a story by Leo Tolstoy about a land-hungry farmer who heard of a country so vast that land could be had for the asking. He traveled there and found it was true. The inhabitants and the chief all welcomed him, and the chief told him that he could help himself to any piece of land he wanted?as much as he could get around on foot in a single day.
“There is one condition,” added the chief. “You must start at sunrise and return to the place where you started before the sun sets. Start anywhere you like and go around marking the corners. Go as far and as wide as you please, but come back on time or you will gain nothing.”
That night the farmer lay awake with excitement at the thought of the vast tract awaiting him. In the morning, he set off just as dawn was breaking and soon settled on a starting point for his land. Gradually his pace quickened to a trot.
After going several miles he marked another corner. Eventually he broke into a run, driven by the knowledge that the faster he went, the more land would be his. He came to what would have been a reasonable turning place and passed it by, his greed spurring him on. Finally, surprised to see the sun already high overhead, he marked the last corner and began to run back to the starting point.
He barely took time to eat lunch. By mid-afternoon he was worn out, but he threw off his coat and boots and kept running. The sky was red with sunset. His feet were hurt and bloody and his heart was at the bursting point, but if he collapsed now, all his effort would be for nothing. He ran for all he was worth, his eyes on the goal.
His effort was rewarded, for he made it back just in time?only to fall over stone dead. His servant dug him a grave and buried him in it. In the end, all the land he needed was a plot six feet by two.
Tolstoy’s farmer is not alone. Greed kills us all.
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