The Shoemaker — A short story

Albert Berk Toledo
3 min readDec 7, 2020

There is a village of good and honest people. They all grow tomatoes and feed themselves. They use materials they find around to build their homes, make tools, make fire to stay warm etc. Everyone is self reliant, no need for help from each other. This helps with the social affairs. No drama. They only come together for entertainment and spending good time together.

One man in the village realizes that they spend a lot of time taking care of their feet. It’s because going back and forth from the field bare foot has an immense tax on their feet. After thinking about this for a while, he decides to experiment with local plants, drying them, folding and putting them together so he can cover his feet with them. He doesn’t need to spend nearly as much time taking care of his feet after covering his feet with this stuff. This means he can make more trips to the field and be more productive.

He decides to make more of these things that he calls shoes to give people he knows. He starts making them for friends, neighbors and anyone he sees walking around. He gives them away and everyone loves them. More people start to come to him asking for shoes. He happily makes them for everyone. As people’s shoes get older, he repairs or makes new ones for them.

As time passes, everyone is happier and more productive, they have more tomatoes to feed themselves. There is only one problem. The shoemaker spends most of his time making shoes, and he can’t grow as many tomatoes to eat. He is struggling, almost at the brink of starvation.

He decides he will ask everyone that he makes a shoe for to give him a tomato because he can’t grow tomatoes anymore. He spends all of his time making shoes for them. Otherwise he has to spend time growing tomatoes to eat and he can’t make shoes for people. After knowing the comfort of walking in shoes, villagers happily agree to share their tomatoes with him in return for shoes. Now everyone is happy, everyone is well fed, and everyone has healthy and happy feet.

Then, an interesting phenomenon occurs. Other villagers see this happen and start to wonder. Do we all have to grow tomatoes? If the shoemaker can spend his time making shoes for others without the concern of growing tomatoes to eat, then why can’t we help each other with other problems and get tomatoes in return. One villager starts to offer making other people’s homes in return for tomatoes. In the beginning people don’t like the idea. After all they have been making their own homes for as long as they have had homes. But they realize those who live in homes made by the homemaker are happier, have bigger, better and stronger homes and they didn’t even have to work for it. All they had to do was giving the homemaker tomatoes that they grew so he can eat and build homes without worrying about growing his own tomatoes.

This trend catches on. Now the village turned into an operation of highly skilled craftsmen specialized in professions and helping each other with their needs. There is only one problem. People started to pass on the tomatoes they get to eat in exchange of their products and services to other people for their products and services. Sometimes the shoemaker makes so many shoes that he gets more tomatoes than he can eat and even after giving some tomatoes to the people who build his home and make his clothes, he has leftover tomatoes that go to waste.

Someone then has a brilliant idea. They don’t need actual tomatoes to be passed around. They could just keep score of what people do for others and they can add and subtract from that score as people exchange products and services.

The productivity, creativity, collaboration skyrockets in the village. It turns into a civilization.