Be Redemptive

I’m sore. In addition to hunting for eggs this weekend, I needed to do a bunch of work around the house. A week ago, we received the news that our kitchen sewer line under our house had ceased to exist. I wish that was an April fools day joke. Unfortunately, it was true. The half-a-century old cast iron line that runs from the kitchen to the center of our house had completely corroded and collapsed. The solution? Saw and blast away the foundation in the middle of the house and replace the line. I remember feeling lightheaded and slightly dizzy before I hit the floor. Maybe I exaggerate, but it was a shock. Thankfully after some measurements, the plumber was able to plot a new path that would route it outside the house without invading the foundation. It would require cutting through the patio, brick walkways and the driveway, but it was 10 billion percent better than cutting up our tile floor and main foundation. 

Construction started. The contractor even promised to “put it back, exactly like they found it.” Workers wielding saws, jackhammers, grinders, shovels, trowels, and mixers showed up and started working their magic. I drove into our driveway on Thursday and noticed the holes in the front of the house had been closed. The concrete was in place. But then I saw it, the repaired brick sidewalk that the pipe had to pass looked more like a rumble strip more than a flat sidewalk. Edges of bricks were sticking up a good half inch above the rest. Oh no! It would definitely trip anyone walking up to our house. At first, I thought it must have been just roughed in, but no, the mortar was in place. After discovering that the contractor would not return to fix it for many days, I knew I had to act. First, because the mortar was still wet but drying quickly, and second, because I’m massively impatient and obsessive about things being out of place. 

I dug it up. I took out the bricks and the mortar. My wife, bless her for putting up with my “engineer everything” OCD, even helped me level the bed. After a trip to the hardware store, which by the way always results in me buying more toys, I mean tools than I need, we went to work placing the bricks back in the proper herringbone pattern. We used a level to ensure every brick was plumb and the grade was consistent for stormwater runoff. I mixed and added the mortar to set the pattern. As with any project, we couldn’t help but expand the scope a little and ended up cleaning up the brick edge next to the adjacent flower bed. All too soon it was nighttime. Thankfully, we had completed the task. We had our sidewalk restored and a little bit more. And yes, in case you are wondering, we informed the contractor. I wasn’t going to let them touch the back patio that needed similar treatment. I would be doing that myself and completed it this weekend as well.

I am exhausted. It is a lot of work carrying 60-pound bags of mortar around and floating concrete into place. But I am so glad I did. It looks so good. I spent the whole time wondering how someone could do the work that sloppy and think it was done. 

I know I’m high maintenance. But to be fair, I come by it honest. My dad was the same. He always insisted that anything we did needed to be engineered well. We had to leave things better than we found them. If he borrowed something, he would spend half the time cleaning or otherwise making whatever he borrowed better than what it was when he got it. As a kid, I hated that. We would get lists of things to do if we rented a car, boat, or house. My sister and I would spend all day doing that work instead of playing. But I also recall how incredible it felt looking at the work we did and realizing we made something better for someone else. Life is full of opportunities like that. Yes, they require hard work and effort, but they are so rewarding.

Be redemptive. That word refers to something that has the power to make amends, restore something that has been lost or damaged. It is about something that has the power to bring about a positive change to improve any situation. I often used that phrase with my kids. Don’t leave this world without somehow making a positive difference. Be redemptive. Make things a bit better for yourself and those who come behind you. We have that choice. We have that power. And with some Advil, you can even redeem your sidewalk.