The Decision

The rich man was home. Before she left the house to go shopping, his wife had shown him the new sandals she had bought the day before. One pair was white with fake jewels all over. The other pair had Indian turquoise and silver thread on a brown leather base. She was upset that the rich man didn’t say that they were “cute”. The plumber had been to the house earlier to fix a plugged drain. The rich man wondered who ever bought Drano because his wife always contended that the plugged drains at his house were beyond Drano’s capabilities and required a professional plumber.

There was a knock at the rich man’s door. He was wearing an old, well-worn, felt cowboy hat, leather boots, leather jacket; he carried a satchel. He introduced himself as Roberto Sanchez. He said that he had come across the border looking for work. He needed work. He said that he had no money. He had to have work. Up Mount Soledad, he carried a pair of iron contraptions with leather bindings that when fastened to one’s legs and under one’s boots could be used to climb trees by digging the protruding spikes coming from the inside of the insole into the tree trunk. Roberto Sanchez wanted the job of climbing the rich man’s palm trees and removing the dead fronds from under the live growth at the top. He was hungry and he was cold (even though the air temperature was mild). He very much wanted the rich man to provide this work for him. Roberto talked very slowly, deliberately, politely. He asked for a cup of coffee so that he could take some medicine that he was carrying in his pocket. After the rich man brought him the coffee and he took the medicine, Roberto began again to speak about his skill, experience, and thoroughness as a tree trimmer and gardener. Roberto Sanchez was in his fifties. He had come across the border to find work. This was a man that the new immigration laws required that the rich man not hire. Not only was Roberto Sanchez from a different country and culture, but he was also of another time. The rich man’s neighbors had warned him to be distrustful of strangers on the street.

The rich man saw in Roberto Sanchez’s proposition an opportunity to do something worthwhile this day; to make his afternoon meaningful. This man needed a job and the rich man had work that needed to be done. The rich man thought to himself, “it is unusual for a man like this to be soliciting work on this street. Does he mean to do harm?” and “this man is intruding on my peace and solitude today”. But he also thought, “This man needs work and is in front of my house asking for help”. The young son of the rich man was bouncing a ball nearby and listening to the conversation. The rich man saw an opportunity for his son to learn a lesson in cross-cultural communication, the value of hard work, compassion, and charity. Roberto Sanchez said that the job would lake about a week to complete. He said that he was getting older now and could not work as fast as he used to. The rich man thought about the fact that some neighbors might not appreciate this man on the block for a week; his general description was not unlike the warnings of the Community Alert Program leader. The rich man somewhat resented the dilemma that Roberto Sanchez created for him on this here-to-for simple day.

Finally, in a demonstration of his worldliness and sensitivity, the rich man said, “No trabajo hoy senor. Lo siento mucho.” He then shrank back into his house. Roberto Sanchez walked back down Mount Soledad.


Karl Rossinsky
San Diego, California

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