Thursday, February 5, 2009

Charity and its discontents

About three weeks ago, my dad and I were at the playground with the kids. Dad got into a conversation with a man who seemed to be in charge of a lot of children there. Seven, in fact. The man came and sat down on my bench after awhile, commented on my Kindle, said he was a painter, and asked whether I needed any work done.

As a matter of fact, I do. The wood eaves and trim of our brick house badly need to be scraped and painted. The guy clearly needed work, and I thought it might be a chance to help him out.

He came by, we agreed on a price, and this morning he brought his stuff and two other guys that he'd picked up from the day laborer line. Then he asked for money so he could get the materials and the other guy he needed to do some woodwork repair (which I had pointed out to him). They all head off to get that done.

The whole morning goes by. Noel is getting concerned. Then in the early afternoon, the other guys came back. And they told Noel that he ought to be careful -- that this guy might be taking our money and buying things that were, shall we say, not related to the job.

Noel calls me and relays these concerns. The guy now comes back, hours after he should have been underway, and starts masking the windows. I decide that it's not worth worrying about whether this guy is going to be reliable -- that we gave him a chance to be professional and he blew it. I head home to fire him.

That's never easy, of course. But I wasn't nervous about it, because the thought of a couple of days not knowing whether this guy is going to do what he says he'll do, even if it eventually gets done, causes me far more anxiety than telling him we don't need his services.

I hated to pull my good deed out from under this poor guy. I have no doubt that he really needs the money. But I also have no doubt that he's not able to do what I need done to get that money -- that is, to act like a professional. I don't have the spare psychic energy to spend worrying about someone who's working for me.

I'm sorry it didn't work out. It would have been great to have helped someone who was helping me -- a real win-win. I would have liked to have been a "blessing" to him, as he kept saying. But I'm going to have to channel whatever stimulus I can provide for the local economy through legitimate businesses, not individuals in need.

1 comment:

Danny said...

I applaud your charity as well as your grit.