September 11, 2013

No law was hated more during the long sway of the Roman Empire than the one that forced all citizens to shoulder the burdens of any Roman soldier for an entire mile. Back in those days of iron armor and weaponry, carrying such a burden in the hot Mediterranean sun would have been a real ordeal. Whoever lived in the empire, citizen or not, had no option: if asked to carry such a load, they had to comply! Or else. And it was an “else” that no one in his right mind would want to face.

Then Christ, according to Matthew (in Chapter 5, verse 41), added insult to injury by declaring that if you are forced to carry such burdens for a mile, carry them for two miles. That had to be about as welcome as two foxes in a henhouse.

But that was His point: We ought to go far beyond the letter of the law: Only as we give more than the law demands of us, can there really be a gift at all.

* * *

With this historical preamble, let’s turn to today’s world. The norm, at least in America, is not only to avoid if at all possible the demands of the law but to hire lawyers to help you find legal loopholes so that you don’t have to pay any of it.

Who among us has not ruefully discovered (usually after the fact) that something we thought we had (protection, coverage, product, amenity, etc.), the legalese in the contract—which we didn’t read because we couldn’t fully understand the murky legal gobbledygook anyway—took away all or most of what we thought we had.

No matter what, rare is the case when weasely legalese doesn’t take away the very protection and coverage (think insurance) we conscientiously paid for so that we and our loved ones would be safe in cases of loss or disaster. Our howls of outrage get us nowhere: “if you were naive enough to believe our contract, you deserve to be taken to the cleaners.”


I’ll have to admit I was more than a bit suspicious of Tony Perry when he guaranteed his body shop really stood behind its word. Especially was I gun-shy after a recent experience my brother-in-law had with a well-known new car Denver automobile agency, for after he purchased a used car from them, and paid for extra guarantee protection, the agency fiercely fought him when he later discovered problem areas that were clearly defined—he thought—in the extra guarantee protection he paid for. And that is but the most recent case of disillusion where today’s business world is concerned.

Another has to do with insurance: you may faithfully pay insurance premiums to a certain company for ten, twenty, thirty, forty years without a claim; then dare to submit two claims within a three-year period, and they threaten to cancel your insurance! It does make you a cynic about current American business, doesn’t it!

So, when one of our vehicles spun out in black ice and turned over on its side, near Evergreen, last winter, I checked around among our friends to see what people had to say about area body shops before I accepted Tony Perry’s bid at Morse Evergreen Autobody. Since we loved our 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada (the company now sadly extinct), we decided to pay whatever it cost to restore it to original condition rather than merely total it. We gulped at the price-tag, but paid for it.

It took some time to repair it; since Oldsmobile no longer exists, body parts were hard to come by. But finally, it was done. All cleaned and shined up too. So much so that people said on seeing it, ‘Oh, you bought a new car!”

There were a couple of minor problems afterwards. Morse fixed them, and charged us nothing.

But there developed a peskier problem: an original piece of Oldsmobile molding on the driver’s door insisted on warping over time. I brought Cosette (my name for the SUV) in and showed them the problem. They fixed it, no questions asked.

Almost half a year later, the perverse piece of molding warped again. This time I was embarrassed to bring Cosette in, for Morse had been so faithful to their word. Surely, there had to be an expiration point to a guarantee, verbal or paper. So when I brought it in this time, I pointed out how much time had passed, and said I’d gladly pay for whatever it cost to fix the problem.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was told to come pick it up. They’d really beaten that piece of molding half to death hammering it into shape. It was beautiful once again. Same for the paint job. It was even detailed, washed, and looked brand new!

“No charge! It was the original problem, not something new—so it’s on us.”

Thus, we are faced with a graphic refutation of what has become all but standard in America today: Not standing by one’s word.

I’m having a hard time getting over it.

All we can say is this: