The Day Laborer

Early each morning, Georg walked to the hardware store and stood on the far side of the parking lot with other potential workers, waiting for a foreman or contractor to hire him for a day’s work and pay. He had made his living this way for years, scraping by as he provided for his family.

Then one morning, he was hired by Mr. Roth.

That didn’t seem extraordinary at first. Mr. Roth had a pleasant manner, and he seemed genuinely kind and happy, but all Georg really cared about was getting a day’s work done and taking the money home to his wife so she could use it to buy the groceries they needed. Mr. Roth led Georg and a couple other men on the drive to a property he owned, where they spent the day clearing rocks and weeds from a large area. Mr. Roth paid Georg and the others at sunset, and as the job wasn’t finished, he said he would be looking for workers again the next day.

Georg had no reason to doubt him, so he was unsurprised to see Mr. Roth drive up as he did yesterday. Georg signed on for another day, and another day went by with some progress on clearing the land, and ended with wages earned.

This pattern continued a few more days. Georg started to look for Mr. Roth and even hoped no one else would come looking for hired hands earlier so that he wouldn’t feel obligated to work for someone else. He liked being around Mr. Roth. On the last day of clearing the ground, Mr. Roth asked Georg about his family. Georg told him a little, mainly about his children. Mr. Roth commented happily and didn’t pry further.

The day after, Georg this time was surprised to see Mr. Roth reappear at the hardware store. He explained that he needed fencing put up on his property. Georg accepted the job, which lasted two more weeks. He and others helped Mr. Roth measure out lines using rebar and twine, and then they stood up white fencing along these lines.

Where Georg had at first been interested only in following instructions and getting paid, he started taking an interest in the work and the planned outcome. He started asking questions of Mr. Roth, who smiled as he answered and laid out his vision of horse paddocks and a stable. Georg also began seeking out Mr. Roth whenever he had a question instead of waiting for the employer to come around and make corrections. As he did so, he met the rest of the Roth family, and they were as friendly and warm as Mr. Roth. Georg told them more about himself and felt like they treated him as a friend. He went home each day looking forward to going back and excitedly told his own family about what he was accomplishing. Other workers, however, would work there for a few days and then move on to something else.

It was only when his wife pointed it out that Georg realized that Mr. Roth had increased his pay compared to the first couple of weeks he had worked on Mr. Roth’s property.

Several weeks later, the fences were all up, sprinkler lines had been laid, and grass seed had been spread and turned into the soil. Georg helped build the stable, but as he worked, his heart became heavy. The stable was the last step in Mr. Roth’s vision, and that meant there would be no more work to do. The thought sobered Georg immensely, and he tried not to dwell on it.

On the day they finished the stable and Mr. Roth held a little celebration, Georg approached him.

“Mr. Roth,” he said, “thank you for hiring me to help with all this. It really has been a pleasure.”

“I’m sure it didn’t start that way,” answered Mr. Roth with his characteristic grin and sparkle in his eye.

Georg chuckled. “You’re right about that. It was work, the same as any other job.” He looked away and scraped a boot sole against the ground. “I suppose you won’t have any further need for … for us.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well … we’re celebrating the completion of all of this, aren’t we? It’s all finished.”

“I’ve appreciated your hard work and initiative,” Mr. Roth said, putting a hand on the other man’s shoulder. “We’ve completed only the beginning, Georg. The stalls are still empty. I need someone to take care of the horses that will fill them. But, mind you, it can’t be someone who’s in it just to get paid. I need someone who cares enough to do the job right.”

Georg looked into Mr. Roth’s piercing eyes, and he realized why he had stopped paying attention to how much he had been paid each day and why he had wanted to keep coming back.

“I do, Mr. Roth. And I want to keep coming and working here. For you.”

Mr. Roth beamed. “Then no more going to the hardware store in the mornings, Georg. I expect you to come straight here. Your job is here, and from now on, you won’t have to worry about your future.”

Image by JamesDeMers on Pixabay Photos

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