by Karla Koon
“Why does it have to be so hard? Why is everything so hard?” It was with pleading eyes and frustrated tone, twinged with hopeless resignation that my colleague masked her questions as statements of exhaustive reality. Her eyes searched my face for an answer, as I silently stared at her. I longed for some skillfully crafted words of wisdom to offer in this moment. I chose silence instead. Perhaps because the moment called for holding the space with her, and perhaps because I did not have an answer. I am not even sure if she was expecting a response. I simply listened to a cumulative outpouring of frustration and anger that finally bubbled to the surface.
Along with the major social, political, racial, economic, and public health issues that pervade our day, just about every seemingly mundane activity was on the list as being “hard.” It included, routine work tasks, as well as the new and unpredictable expectations continually placed on us as we navigate the pandemic. Grocery shopping, commuting, conversations with family, decisions about who to socialize with based on vaccination status, preparing to send her son off to college, caring for a parent and scheduling vacations. All these things and so much more made her “hard” list. After the tirade and a few moments of silence, her eyes, glistening with tears and fear, met mine and again pleaded, why?
Sitting in silence with her over the digital divide of video conferencing, I finally whispered, “I don’t know why everything is so hard. I just know that it is.” While I heard frustration in her voice, I saw fear in her eyes. Perhaps I saw my own fear reflected in her eyes. We tried to convince ourselves that we were just tired and that we would feel differently after our pending vacations. With vacant stares and trailing words into to nothingness, we let the silent cover us like a blanket. Things had to get easier, right?
What does “easier” look like? What would make things less “hard?” While on vacation, I have been reflecting on these questions and this conversation with my colleague. I have found myself staring at a rather large rocks and wondering, how does a rock become less hard? I suppose if one took a hammer to the rock and exerted a lot of force, the rock would eventually become powder and would no longer retain its hardness. I also imagined water running over the rocking, eventually wearing it down to silt. Changing the nature of the rock would eliminate its hardness. Change was key, one by brute force and another with gradual gentleness over time.
Then my gaze shifted to a different rock formation and a third option emerged. From a crack in the rock, a sapling had grown. From this hard and unyielding rock, new life found its way into the world and was thriving. The nature of the rock did not change, and yet new green life persisted. This was not as much of a surprise as it was a reminder. As people of faith, we know this in the challenge of Mary and Joseph’s journey leading to the birth of Jesus Christ and we also know this in the hard wood of the cross bring new life in the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
I am reminded that we cannot always change what is hard. We can wait in hopeful anticipation for the new life that will spring forth. It will find a way through cracks and crevasses of our challenges, fears, and hardships. May God give us the patience to wait and the wisdom to recognize the emerging newness. May we live into that newness with gentleness, compassion, and abundance of love.
Karla Koon is a Worship Leader and Eucharistic Minister at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, in the Greenlake neighborhood of Seattle. When not serving at church or working as the Director of HR Operations and Administration for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (Catholic Charities), you can find Karla, reading, quilting, golfing, hiking, kayaking, and gathering with friends and family.