Vulnerability and Trust

I’m just not sure what to do…should I reside my house or paint it?”


“If you were my mom, here’s what I would tell you to do…


Sure I could use the work, but you are not even sure how much longer you are going to live here, and since as you said, money is an issue, then spending  $750 vs. $5000 would get you by for another few years…and if at that point, you want to side, we can talk again.”

Conversation between myself and 85 yr old widow named Helen.



Last week I met with another elderly widow I’ll call Delores.    She’d asked me to bid on some storm damage last Fall.  My estimate to do everything came to $2,500.  When I talked to her last week about starting the job, she had a concerned look on her face.   Some other repairs that I had nothing to do with ran over by several thousand dollars, and she had to come up with the difference out of her pocket.   She is on a fixed income, has major health issues and the last thing I wanted to do was give her additional financial stress.

After looking @ what really needed fixing vs. what was cosmetic, I was able to do my portion of the job for $750.  She was fully ready to pay me the whole $2500 but I can’t for the life of me fathom how someone would take advantage of a vulnerable person like that.


Vocationally, I followed in my father’s footsteps.  He was a building contractor during all of my formative years…He just retired a few years ago, at age 78.

Quick story about my dad…

Back in the late 1970’s a local bank approached  dad about general contracting  a new bank building.  In today’s dollars it would easily be a several million dollar job.

The job was done on a handshake. (My dad and the bank president.)


In addition to being a  general contractor/builder,  I also dabble in making custom-built kitchen tables out of reclaimed wood.

I met with Carol on Tuesday to discuss building her a kitchen table and two benches… She’d seen one of my earlier projects on my Facebook business page and wanted the exact same thing….

harvest table for sale

48 by 80 table and bench I built last Fall

Carol called before heading my way and asked about a deposit.  I told her,  I normally don’t take a deposit.’s a trust thing.

“Good for you,” she said.

Side note-  Last Spring I was asked to build 15 tables including a 12 ft  table for a new business.  In their case, I did ask for a deposit because of the amount of money I had tied up in materials but that was the exception.

I live in a pocket of humanity where trust is still alive and well.

We had a visitor last month who is from a larger metropolitan area.  He simply could not wrap his mind around the simple fact I trusted my auto mechanic to stand behind some work he’d done for me without a written warranty.

Anyway, I started this post with the intention of letting  my regular readers know that if ever you have a construction question and would like a neutral 3rd party, I would love to be a sounding board if I can help.  If I don’t know the answer, I will tell you.  It won’t cost you a cent.  That’s how we roll in Middle earth.  DM


Got any  stories about trust?

Want to order a new kitchen table ? 😉

(I build to  specs, finished, unfinished, etc.)

Here are a few other finished projects:



barn board head board December 2014




small tool box





10 thoughts on “Vulnerability and Trust

  1. Interesting post–as my husband, Ben, is a contractor who specializes in home repairs and remodeling, although he’s building a big deck with railing, and pergola. However, he also often deals often with the “elderly” for repair work. (I put it in quotes because some people might put me in that category, but I don’t relate ;). Anyway, Ben just did a fence job for an older woman–probably mid 70s to 80. I often worry about how much he is charging–sometimes he’ll discount it, other times he simply gauges their ability to pay, which is sometimes hard. She wanted new panels for part of the fence (which meant it wouldn’t match). But Ben discovered the new panels are too long. So, he repaired the existing fence, making it all match, pressure washed it, and stained it. He charged $1262. I thought, “Oh boy, what is she going to think.” I always do that. That Sunday in church she saw the guy who referred her to Ben. She “ran” up to him and said, “Ben is the best thing that has happened to me in months!” So, there you go, you never know, and it’s hard to gauge.
    I appreciate the offer of talking about questions that come up for contractors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • love it! Great story. Your hubby is a keeper 🙂 ..and I get what you mean about “old” ….I don’t think of you as old either…old to me is more a state of mind than a # on the calendar…my mom just turned 80 and she is not old. More like a 16 yr old trapped in an 80 yr old body 🙂 Also, you asked about table pricing…prices are based on size and finished/ unfinished. most of these in the pictures are in the $550 to $800 range..


  2. Again, I LOVE your work. It is beautiful! Also, it is so refreshing to be reminded that there are good and honest people. Above all else in my work I strive to be honest, kind and do everything with good intention. Sometimes it feels discouraging when others do not appear to have the same values. I just have to remind myself it’s not about others, I’m only responsible for myself. Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. SOMETIMES it’s like that, even here in Brooklyn…but it’s all based on gut and instinct. It’s a good general principle, here, that you can’t really trust anybody…but I find that the way most of us who are reasonably happy living here operate….is the opposite: a lot of handshake deals and people’s word. With just those people we judge to be worth it. Because it’s too miserable not trusting other people. And too much trouble! Walking around judging and suspecting others makes for a miserable life…

    An aside…we have a car that has been beat and knocked around for years. It’s almost 20 years old, it’s been sideswiped and rear-ended more times than I can remember, it’s got close to 200K miles, it was used when we got it….Well, we are currently in the “now we lay it down to rest” phase. To get there, I took it to the local gas station/mechanics outfit, who mostly seem to work on antiques and their friends’ cars. They have done tiny repairs for me in the past, nothing big, and have always been curt, abrupt, unsmiling, bordering on seriously unfriendly. I was talking to my husband, trying to figure out why I would trust them and why I would go back to them when I so clearly feel that they are not that interested in my business. I finally realized…in a place like NYC, where people spend so much time working on outward image, where con-men are a dime a dozen, I find it reassuring to deal with people who SO CLEARLY could care LESS about selling me anything. They don’t need me, they don’t want me, and so best buddies? We will never be. But they also aren’t trying to sell me a bill of goods. They refuse to do work that isn’t needed, and they charge almost nothing if they do almost nothing. What you see is what you get. Maybe this is an overreaction on my part (I SOO don’t trust “shiny new salespeople” now that I seek out the curmudgeons) but it is 100x more comfortable to deal with an honest curmudgeon than to get taken by even the most charming, personable, smiley hustler….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such beautiful work, the way things used to be made – beauty, function, integrity.

    How did we come so far from the trusting handshake to needing an attorney for nearly every business transaction? It’s good to know you value integrity, even when it makes you vulnerable.

    Liked by 1 person

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