When People Don't Pay Up

Posted by Sarah: Last week we went on a weekend getaway with two couples who happen to own a family construction business.

While traveling via public transportation, one of the wives told me about a difficult client. The clients had purchased a "new build"--a brand new house. But a few weeks before completion, they"d come to the construction office to draw up new plans for an additional storage shed.

Our friends took notes on their specifications, gave them an estimate and once the couple agreed, got right to work on the added out-building.

The shed went up, the clients loaded it up with landscaping tools and kids" toys. And our friends mailed them the bill.

This is when the client earned the adjective "difficult".

They flat out refused to pay the bill.

Shed in place. Their belongings inside it. They looked right at our friends and pointed out--with a smirk--that there was no written contract, so they couldn"t legally be made to pay.

Our friends, who have been operating their business in the same community for decades, were floored. While they usually strived to contract everything in writing, they occasionally made tweaks for clients and had never run into trouble before.

The wife lamented, "It"s like they didn"t understand that by not paying, they"re stealing from our family."

Didn"t understand or didn"t care.

Instantly, I felt protective. Defensive of this family we knew to be good and generous people.

"Can"t you still sue them?" I asked immediately. "I mean, the original house that was agreed upon is written up under contract, right? And that doesn"t mention a shed. So clearly it wasn"t included in the price."

Our friends shrugged back at me.

"Of course we"ve considered everything." They said. "We"ve thought about taking a forklift over there in the middle of the night and taking it back." They laugh at this thought.

"But at the end of the day," The husband said, "my parents didn"t want to be an example of feuding in our neighborhood. They didn"t want something like this to bring out the worst in us in how we dealt with it. They decided that to not take back the shed was a kind of grace. That maybe someday it would mean something to the people that they were treated well, even after what they did. So we"re just going to leave it there."

This is where, I, the blogger at People of the Second Chance was astounded. So show grace even in legal issues, even when someone else shortchanged you? But they have rights, my subconscious cried. Those people don"t deserve that shed! They didn"t pay for it.

But my protest got cut short then. Because even as I thought those words, the idea of people getting undeserved grace, even when they didn"t pay for it, struck me as familiar. I could imagine Jesus standing on their front porch and tearing up the law suit. Giving the shed away. With love.

And I knew that I still had a few things to learn about what giving second chances really means.

What about you? Can you imagine how surprised to the soul people would be if, even when they failed you, you let them off the hook?

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