Once upon a winter I had a job at Lone Cedar Farms. This is a family enterprise that markets home grown fruits and vegetables in our community. It started years ago as a simple roadside operation and has grown into a major business with seven green houses and an elaborate covered market.
Though the place closes during the winter months, workers are busy in the green houses preparing seedlings and potted flowers for spring and summer sales. One winter Leonard, the manager, needed help in the green house. He knew me because I had sold some flower arrangements through him the summer before. He called to ask if I wanted the job. I did.
I loved the job. I love working with plants and especially flowers. Also I learned so much. Leonard was born on this farm which is now part of a large suburban community. He has spent his life raising things. Under his tutorage I rapidly became an expert at potting plants and maintaining those that were potted. Leonard was raised during the Depression and he was extremely cost conscious of everything we were doing. I could never come close to him with the speed of potting seedlings, but I got good enough so I can still beat an amateur.
One day my assigned task was to dead head pansies. The potted plants were blooming and we had to keep the blossoms off to keep the plants healthy. I carefully picked the blossoms, put them in water and took them to an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting. I decorated the long table with small arrangements of all those beautiful flowers. The recovering drunks were delighted.
The next time it was time to dead head the pansies, Leonard gave me specific instructions. "I do not want you to save the blossoms," he informed me. "I want you to throw them out in back." And he showed me just where that was.
I was furious, of course. I love flowers and that is no way to treat them. I understood, however, why I had been given that ultimatum. Tight fisted as he was, Leonard was paying me by the hour and he knew it took a lot longer to preserve the blossoms than to throw them out. So I threw them out.
I was still simmering inside when the work session ended. I was working down in the lower greenhouse which was not occupied as much as the others when I finished my session. When I got up to headquarters I approached Leonard. "Leonard," I said, "I think I heard some kind of animal down in the lower greenhouse."
"You did?" he asked. "Do you know what it was?" He was all ears because an animal in a greenhouse can do a lot of damage.
"I'm not sure," I replied.
"I'd better go down and check it out," he retorted.
"April fool!" I shouted.
He had to laugh when he realized what I had done. It was April 1. We became great friends after that. He knew I had resented throwing those beautiful blossoms out and he respected the fact that I did something about it. I respected the fact that pinching pennies was important to him and could accept that in him. Respect for differences is an important element in friendship. The job ended that spring, but our friendship continues. It has firm foundations.