Metropolitan Veniamin (Fedchenkov) told this story about his friend, a priest, who was building a church in his parish. The project was progressing, but there was a problem: he started being late for lunch. His matushka was displeased: the food she served was too cold or overcooked, and she was spending too much time cooking, at the expense of all the other chores. She found that her once-beloved husband had begun to annoy her. The priest shared his predicament with the Metropolitan, who he knew was on his way to Optina Pustyn, imploring him to meet Elder Anatoly and ask him for his advice. Which should he prioritise: the church or his wife?
The metropolitan fulfilled his request. He described the situation of his friend the priest to the elder, and the elder shook his head in sadness. "Your friend is in great trouble," he replied. With great concern for the priest, he recommended him strongly to pay attention to his wife. "He should put his wife first, or there will be trouble! Building a church is a great feat, but one cannot obey God without keeping peace within the family. Did not the Apostle Paul teach that husbands should love their wives as themselves? Did not he compare the wife to the Church? See how highly he placed marriage and family! He should build a church, but also not neglect his family. If not, he will not please God even if completes it fast. Tell him not to be late for lunch and put his priorities right.
Then he thought for some time and added:
"Building a church is a good thing, but if he gives it too much attention, he may easily fall into the temptation of vanity, by wanting to finish the construction quickly to please the people. Please tell him that."
The Metropolitan did what the elder told him. The priest listened, and his family life improved.
St. Innocent of Irkutsk was the first orthodox bishop of Eastern Siberia. He came from a noble family, but he still enjoyed crafting things with his hands. He would spend hours working in the vegetable garden of his monastery. He helped fishermen pull their nets. But his main life project was educating the people. He established a school for Buryat children where they learned to read and studied the scripture. In winter, however, many children stopped going to school. As Father Innocent found out, they had nothing to put on their feet to walk the long distance to the school. The bishop went to the merchant and sold him his fishing nets and an icon that he had painted. He bought several yards of leather and felt enough to make thirty pairs of leather shoes, or gutuls, for the boys. He made the gutuls with a thick needle and a sewing hook. All the thirty pairs were ready in a week. The bishop gave each child a pair of new shoes so that all of them could come to school.
A hunter was once travelling through a desert in search of the game when he came across a group of monks gathering brushwood for the monastery. The Venerable Anthony the Great was among them. He was telling the brethren something funny, and everyone was laughing. The hunter approached the monks and asked their Hegumen, "Why are you telling your brethren funny stories and letting them laugh? Are not monks supposed to be dispassionate?" Father Anthony smiled, "You have a bow. Can I ask you to draw it?" The hunter drew the bowstring. "Pull it harder!" The hunter obeyed. "Harder!" insisted the venerable Anthony. "I cannot pull it any harder, or the string will break," he replied. "Imagine the souls of these monks as the string of your bow. Pull it too hard, and it will break. By laughing with brethren, I give rest to their souls so they can have the strength to do good deeds for the Lord. The hunter liked the explanation. He thanked the saint and continued on his journey.
In a tournament for disabled athletes, ten racers were preparing to run a 100-metre race. The judge blew the whistle, and the race began. Everyone ran. They progressed at a different speed, but with the same desire to do their best and won. But one young man stumbled at the start, fell on the track and cried. The other athletes heard him cry. They all turned around and ran to the racer. A girl with Down's syndrome helped the young man up, kissed him and said: "You are going to be alright." All nine athletes held hands and crossed the finish line simultaneously. The spectators gave them a standing ovation.
A landlady hired a village woman to tend to her turkeys, but for some unknown reason, they began to die one after another. The landlady was mulling her dismissal. The woman approached St. Ambrose of Optina. "Father," she said tearfully, - "I do not know what to do. I have lost my sleep, and barely have time to eat. I look after them all the time, but they are still dying. The landlady is set on firing me. Have pity, tell me what to do." Other people laughed at her. They thought that she was bothering the elder for a trifle. Saint Ambrose paid no attention. He asked her in detail how she fed them and what she did to look after the turkeys. Finally, she told her what she needed to do differently, blessed her and took leave. Then he spoke to those who were laughing at the woman: "These turkeys are her life." The turkeys recovered, and the woman kept her job.