I’ve been asked to do unpaid manual labor for a friend’s rich parent dying of cancer

I’m not close to the parents, and was distancing myself from this friend before his father was diagnosed, for various reasons. When l asked this friend for help when my parent and wife were dying, he said “No”. But was able to listen to my grief on the phone many times. His dad has asked me to come help him in his garden this summer. His father is wealthy, but has asked this as a favor. Of course I would never charge for a favor, this would be a weekly commitment.
I am retired. I feel this is weird. Thoughts? I don’t understand why they want me there. Why not hire a gardener? My back and knees are not good and my friend knows this. He’s really pressuring me to make this commitment. Is this just a case of wanting control over something, anything, when life feels out of control?


Hi MrHastings,

It sounds like a difficult scenario, particularly since you have health conditions that could exacerbate by manual labor. While I can understand the sense of obligation you might feel given his father’s health conditions, it seems like there’s an attempt at manipulation here, especially considering your friend’s lack of assistance during your period of need.

In my opinion, you should put your well-being first. His father being a wealthy man does make it an odd request, especially when he can easily afford professional services. Plus, you’re under no obligation to provide free labor, whether as a favor or not, and particularly not when it could harm your health. Try explaining your concerns to your friend. If he’s genuinely appreciative of your companionship, he should respect your limitations and concerns.

Remember, your first responsibility is to yourself, your health and your well-being. Doing a favor should not come at the cost of these. Good luck, and I hope everything works out for the best.

Stay strong and take care!


I’m sorry you’re faced with this difficult decision. It’s uncomfortable, especially considering the circumstances. From an outsider perspective, I agree with mjimenez. You need to prioritize your own health and well-being first, particularly with your physical condition.

It is possible that in the face of adversity and illness, his father may simply want the company. However, the fact that you’re being asked to do labor-intensive work when your friend knows of your health condition is concerning. Making you feel guilty or pressuring you into it isn’t right.

Remember you are not obliged to agree to any request that you’re uncomfortable with or risks your health. It’s definitely worth having a candid conversation with your friend about your concerns.

Best of luck in navigating this, and make sure to take care of yourself first.


Hey MrHastings,

I agree with what the others are saying here. You need to look after yourself first. Cancer is a terrifying diagnosis, and it’s understandable to want to help, but not at the potential cost of your health.

There’s a chance they are asking you to help out because they want someone familiar around, as things might feel uncertain in this difficult time. If you feel comfortable and able, maybe you could offer to visit and keep him company instead of helping in the garden, especially considering the very valid concerns about your health.

Always remember, you are allowed to say no when something negatively affects your wellbeing. You matter too, and in every relationship, it’s important to have these boundaries.

Wishing you the best in this tough situation.

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I couldn’t help but chime in when I read your post. This is indeed a tricky situation. You’re right to think about your health first and foremost. If your friend knows about your health conditions and still insists on having you do physical labor, that seems to be a bit off.

Perhaps there is a compromise to be had? If it’s not the physical labor but rather the companionship that his father is seeking, perhaps you could suggest meeting for a coffee or lunch once a week instead. This way, you could offer support without jeopardizing your wellbeing.

Just remember, it’s okay to put yourself first, especially when it comes to your health. You are in no way obligated to do something that could potentially harm you. I hope you manage to resolve this situation with your friend without feeling obliged or pressured. Good luck and take care of yourself!

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I completely empathize with your situation and understand the discomfort you may be experiencing. I’m highly impressed by the community’s suggestions here - all of them are worth considering. Prioritizing your health and well-being is crucial, especially considering your physical condition.

In these circumstances, communication is key. It’s essential to convey your thoughts and concerns to your friend clearly. His father might indeed be seeking some form of companionship or a sense of familiarity in these tough times, which is why he asked you for help in his garden. However, you are not obligated to comply, especially given the associated health risks.

Maybe you could offer to participate in lighter tasks - ones that do not strain your body as gardening would? That way, you could spend time together without jeopardizing your health. Just remember, you have the right to say no, and your reasons are entirely justifiable.

I wish you nothing but the best as you navigate this tricky situation. Remember, your health comes first. Stay strong and take good care of yourself!

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Reading your post, I can sense your discomfort and understand your dilemma. Like others on this thread, I echo their advice to put your health and well-being first.

You’re under no obligation to perform these tasks, especially considering your health status. With your friend being aware of your physical condition, pressuring you to commit to garden work doesn’t seem fair. Please do remember you have the right to prioritize your health and comfort and say no when you need to. If friendship and companionship are what his father needs during this tough time and you’re comfortable providing this, you could propose coffee, board games, book discussions, or simply sitting in the garden for a chat.

Your health is paramount, and any decision you choose to make should reflect that. Good luck handling this situation, and as everyone has suggested above, taking care of yourself is crucial. Take care and continue being strong!