The Case of the Lazy Gardner
Dear Shifra -
Here's a question that has been bothering my family for a while...
We use a certain gardener to take care of our yardwork. He isn't that great a gardener, and our yard barely looks passable. We pay him, because he really, REALLY needs the money.
Unfortunately, he does the bare minimum for our yard, doesn't know the meaning of grass seed, and our yard has had better days.
So it's basically, a tzedakka issue.
So what's the problem? We really want to switch to ANOTHER gardener, who happens to be an amazing landscaper. A real green-thumb pro, who would get our yard looking amazing in no time. And they also need the money...and they are ALSO friends of ours.
Problem is -- how can we dump the first gardener and switch to the other one?
I'm not even sure it's halachikally permissible, but we would so much want a nicer lawn and pay our friends to keep our yard looking nice.
Thanks for listening,
Yard which is less than green
Ooooh good question!
First let me lay out my usual disclaimer - I am not a halachik authority and I am not offering any kind of p'sak on this issue blah, blah, blah....
I've re-read your question half a dozen times searching for clues that might help me resolve your problem. It seems that your gardener is not a "gardener" at all - if your lawn looks terrible and he has not heard of grass seed, clearly this person is either unwilling or unable to perform his job.
It makes me wonder if this person also thinks of your payment as charity rather than payment for services rendered.
Have you tried telling him what you expect? Obviously it is not your job to teach him how to be a gardener but telling him that you expect him to mow/water the lawn or plant grass seed (which you can provide if he cannot afford it on what you pay him), or whatever else it is that you want him to do might help you to both get what you want.
If you have already tried this and find that he is hopeless as gardener or does not care enough to put in the effort required I think you are within your rights to let him go - you are paying him in return for a service which he is not providing, and not even ATTEMPTING to provide. If you wish to keep sending him checks just to be charitable go ahead - it's pretty much what you are doing now anyway. Once you make that decision it's up to you and your budget as to whether you want to hire the other gardener.
It's going to be a bit painful one way or the other for sure but as long as you give the original gardener a chance to improve I think you've been fair enough.
Let me know how it turns out.