Does anyone remember January 2020, where people touting “2020 Vision” was all the rage? I do, too, but hold that thought. We’ll circle back after this tale:
On a September evening in 2014, as the sultry Kansas summer gave way to fall, my husband and I were in our backyard making plans to upgrade the hardscape (AKA: the porch and patio). As we began to take measurements, we noticed something odd. There looked to be a hole in the middle of our existing ground-level patio.
Upon closer inspection, we discovered that what looked like a hole was truly…a hole. A piece of concrete about the size of a football had dropped out and disappeared. A flashlight revealed a problem that in the coming months would prove more extensive than we imagined from the initial vantage point.
When we started exploratory demolition, we discovered a hole both deep and wide. A cistern had been improperly filled under our porch and, over time, had acted as a siphon, drawing dirt away from our home’s foundation. The porch, a solid chunk of concrete approximately 14 feet x 6 feet x 2.5 feet, was suspended over nothing. And, at the moment of discovery, dirt was disappearing from under the home’s foundation—the support directly under our kitchen.
In this moment of discovery, we had a choice to make. We could shut off the light, fish out the piece of concrete, grab a caulk-gun, patch the piece back in its spot and continue on as if there wasn’t a large hole looming in our backyard, or we could admit the problem and work to solve it.
For us, option one wasn’t even on the table. We knew we had to fix it. It was unsettling to remember all the times our young children had run up and down the porch stairs from house to backyard and back, even pausing to swing from the stair rails like little monkeys. What would have happened if everything would have collapsed underneath us? I still don’t even want to think about it.
As we began developing a plan to fix the problem, I remember both being angry that we were even in the position to deal with the problem and fearful because this wasn’t something we could fix on our own, even as avid do-it-yourselfers. I was afraid we couldn’t afford to fix this very large problem that we couldn’t ignore.
We eventually found a contractor perfect for the job. He had just the experience needed to repair the foundation, and he willingly worked with my husband and father-in-law to keep our costs manageable. Fred Rogers famously said, “When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Our contractor was a helper to me in our moment of need.
Once the foundation was secure, more work remained. The drop from our back door to the bottom of the hole was a strong 14 feet, so we needed dirt and lots of it. The cistern that had collapsed was at least partially filled with trash. We found it as we excavated. We were determined to do the work well this time, so no matter who lived in the house in the future, the backyard would remain safe and solid. No trash allowed.
Then came the waiting. This part surprised me but not my husband. I’m thankful he knew that construction had to wait until the dirt settled. In the meantime, we trucked in more loads of dirt and sand as the ground shifted and packed itself into the former hole. Finally, in May of 2015, we put temporary steps in place to get us from the door to the yard and single pavers as a path through the dirt pit. In the fall, we planted grass. The September day the grass sprouted itself into a tender sea of green moved me to tears, the new growth refreshing to my soul after a year of barren ground.
Nearly a year later, in May of 2016, we poured the pilings for the new deck. That sucker would be securely anchored in. It wasn’t going anywhere! By October, two years after we first discovered the hole, the final touches on the deck were finished, except the stain. Again we must wait, this time for the lumber to cure. But, after the lengthy project, it felt good to put the patio chairs on the new build and rest.
I will admit that a year ago, I quickly tired of the “2020 Vision” mantra repeated ad nauseum. But in hindsight, it was right. Like our backyard, the last year has revealed some holes spanning society, community, corporate, personal and even spiritual. In other articles and speaking engagements, I’ve been able to use our backyard experience to illustrate several components, one of my favorites being spiritual foundations. In fact, it’s what I hope to write my first book about. But right now, I want to hyper-focus on vision.
When we first discovered our backyard issue, we couldn’t see the scope of what we’d face, but we knew we couldn’t ignore it. We had to keep going. And eventually, we uncovered a real mess.
Comparatively, when the going got tough during 2020, the loud voices championing perfect eyesight faded rather than offering encouragement toward perseverance in adversity. It was almost as if 2020 Vision was only wanted if we liked what we saw. But that’s not how vision works. Sometimes we get to see beautiful things like sunsets and glistening hoar frost. But sometimes sight shows extensive problems. Sometimes sight shows a collapsed cistern.
When holes are revealed, it’s not the time to turn away. It’s not the time to shut off the light, patch the holes and go about our business as if a large, destructive hole wasn’t lurking under the surface. That way is foolish. It’s not the way toward restoration and rest.
Acknowledgement of the problem is the first step. The revelation might be painful, the demolition dirty. We might find we’re angry and fearful. We might need help. The process might be long. But isn’t the possibility of a secure foundation worth the 2020 Vision?