‘$120 and a cold one’

Our dog patch

Our dog patch

He was the nicest guy. He noticed the struggling little patch of grass in front of our house and asked if I was interested in some sod. He was a landscaper who lived around the corner and had some St. Augustine grass left over from another job that he would let me have if I wanted it.

I explained how the dead grass he was looking at was actually new only a few weeks ago, but the neighborhood dogs had already peed it beyond recognition and anything new would only result in the same fate. However, I did have some bare patches of St. Augustine in the back that my wife had been wanting me to fix for some time, and maybe he could be the answer to my dreams, since my “honey do” list was growing too big for one husband to handle.

“Well let’s take a look,” he said.

As we walked back he raved about our little cottage and seemed to be full of free advice about everything. He even took some time explaining how our ficus trees needed to be opened up a little to let more sun in, and how their roots were taking over our back yard, and then proceeded to show me how to trim the roots back. “You can do it with an axe. I’ll bring one with me and show you.”

After examining our lawn and determining he had just what we needed, and that he could put it in that afternoon for only $120 and a cold beer when he was done (and that was just for the labor — the grass was free), I had decided he was an angel in disguise.

We chatted about lots of things as we walked back around the house, and he had nothing but nice things to say about what a rare piece of property we had for Laguna. Back out front, he asked for some paper and a pen so he could draw up a little contract since he didn’t have his book with him. On it he put the name of his landscape company, his landscapers license number, phone number, and then he wrote “$40.00 down, $80.00 upon completion of the project” and said, “You can write me a check for the $80, but if you happen to have cash for the $40, that would save me a trip to the bank.”

I don’t always have much cash on hand, but as a “coincidence” I had $40, and I celebrated in my mind as I went and got it, that I would be able to get this one thing off my list. Marti was going to be so happy.

He said he’d be back with his truck in about an hour, but when an hour passed, and turned into two, I began to feel stupid. Was my angel really a devil? A guy with a landscaper’s license who needed $40 in cash should have been my first clue, but it never even crossed my mind. When I tried the phone number and found it wasn’t a working number it became evident that his “$120 and a cold one” was really “$40 and bye-bye.” Sure enough, I never saw the guy again.

Jesus told His disciples they needed to be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. Well I got the innocent part down, but I could have used a little more shrewdness.

Of course this raises the whole issue of trust. Finding that line between trust and suspicion in relationships is a difficult proposition. I personally think that I would rather err on the side of trust even if it means I get taken advantage of sometimes.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 that love “believes all things,” but is that the same thing as gullible? I’m not so sure we can always know. I’m sure some of you have lost a lot more than $40 and that can up the ante on this whole discussion, but I still want to be a trusting person and that may cost me sometimes. What do you think?

I know what Marti thinks. She says that he probably needed it more than I did, and will I please fix her lawn now. I have my friendly neighborhood “landscaper” to thank for that!

One of the things we will be discussing with Os Guinness tonight will be getting along with people who may be our enemies in disguise. Don’t miss this!

os guinness


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12 Responses to ‘$120 and a cold one’

  1. bobbobs60 says:

    ~ My question: Did you have the beer to give him should he come back?
    Unfortunately, I think more Christians would be incensed that you may have had liquor – regardless of its alcohol content – in your fridge rather than the fact you may have been ‘taken’!
    Personally, I hope you did and I hope he returns… 🙂

    • bobbobs60 says:

      Another thought:
      Perhaps his truck broke down or he was involved in a bad collision – or, maybe he even got lost trying to find your house on the way back?
      He still may return to do the job.
      While in our ‘jaundiced’ views these may not be probable scenarios, I don’t think we should judge too quickly and conclude that there was any malice involved.
      Besides, what has happened was meant to be.
      Certainly you were a blessing to him by giving him the $40 cash you “coincidentally” happened to have.
      Now the question: where do you, he, and we go from here?

    • Grace says:

      Wow not sure I understand where you are coming from here?!? Why does it matter what he has in his refrigerator?

  2. greg Krejci says:

    Hold on to the beer but watch your locks.

  3. Mark Seguin says:

    So sorry Pastor John 4 going through that, I wished it wouldn’t have happened, yet LUV & could not agree w/ wat you wrote more: “I personally think that I would rather err on the side of trust even if it means I get taken advantage of sometimes.” and i’ll add a big yes & Amen to that! 🙂
    PS of course Marti made a brilliant point as she often does: “She says that he probably needed it more than I did…”

  4. KaT H. says:

    I am so sorry that you were “Snookered” 😦 My parents were “taken” from a landscape person as well!

  5. Peter Leenheer says:

    John I had a client who had a similar problem and she told me, if he stole from me I hope God will touch his conscience deeply. For her, that was the end of the matter.

    When I first began my business as landscaper in 1986, I was suspicious of everyone and lived in fear of being duped by prospective clients. This was not the trust God expected of me, so how do I cope. I began by trusting every prospective client but developed a box with red flags in it in the back of my mind. Statements as well as questions the prospective clients made, could make those flags pop up. Generally these flags popped up when they made statements related to cost, perfect quality but low prices, and unreasonable expectations. If too many flags popped up then I would thank them profusely and tell them that right now I am very busy and would not be able to do the work for them in a reasonable time. If they pushed me I would tell them the truth, but I found they already knew their own motives and would not pursue the issue. This suited my purpose for some time.

    What I do now is pray to God if he wants me to do the job in conjunction with the red flag method. The results have been good. Sometimes God tells me to take the job, sometimes he tells me to do it for free, and sometimes he says no don’t do it. It has taken me some time to learn to discern His voice but the results have been amazing. Yes, there have been times when all the flags went up and God said take the job. This often resulted in both parties learning something. I would learn to make sure my boundaries were in place and the client would be pointedly told that contractors as well as clients can be trying to take you for a ride. The point for me was always to deal with them with respect and love so as not to stoop to their level.

    • Mark Seguin says:

      Boy oh boy Peter L. could i relate to your comments – see before i went to a University to become an engineering, I owned an Auto Body (or Collision) repair shop and too many times I had customers or potential ones ask me when getting an estimate on a repair, say well seeing how your doing this or that why do u go a-head and fix this area 4 free, or give me a great deal on the price. I’d often ask them well when u went to work today did u punch in or tell your boss oh no need to pay me today i’ll work for free, or don’t pay me 4 all of the work i did? Just about all of the time, they say no way would i ever do that!

      So I’d smile @ them, yet it’s OK to ask me to work for free, or not get paid 4 all of the work? If that lead to a pleasent conversation (or red flags) either they wud go on their way, or better understood wat they were asking of me and then it might work out… 🙂

  6. peter leenheer says:

    Never pay for work that is not yet done, and what you want done get in writing, plus the cost. If you are not sure about what work needs to be done get an expert there when you have the contractor give a quote. Get more than one quote so you can compare prices, work that is required and you will find a contractor you can work with who is interested in your needs. Get references!

    If you have a 6month home renovation, don’t pay until the first month is finished and then in one sixth of the the price at a time. I have seen too many people taken because they just don’t know what their rights are. Remember you have the power of the purse, gaurd it carefully!

  7. Grace says:

    Oh My Gosh my sister and I were discussing the response of her care pastor who sluffed her off when she asked for help for a woman she met on the side of the road. Now keep in mind this woman didn’t come begging for the churches money to rescue her out of a hole she dug on her own. She was out of gas out of diapers and out of money. Her daughter is 2 years old and had all these medical problems. The mother stays up almost all night as the baby sleeps so she can make sure she doesn’t die. Any way thank God for my sister who gave her gas for her car diapers for her baby and food for her refrigerator. The next person God brings into your life could be the person you are to bring down the path of freedom and deliverance but you can’t help them if you don’t love them and you can’t love them if you don’t trust them.

  8. Camille Pronovost says:

    I was hit up by a young woman in a Walmart, who said she needed gas and asked for $$ to get home. It was a reasonably plausible story and I gave her $20, knowing it was possibly a scam. But I thought like you, John, better to err on the side of kindness. I did my part,and shame on her if she scammed me.

  9. Barbara says:

    Being a helpful hand for the Lord these days has become an opportunity for desperate people out of work to find ways for honest people to part with their money without begging. From time to time people are going to make us look like suckers. When they do I just pray for them because they apparently need the money more than I did. Those that intended to get something for nothing must be living in hell, because they will never be content. So praying for this guy will make a bigger difference than the $40 you gave him, even if you never see him again.

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