by Karla Koon
It was cold in Seattle over the holidays. A week of below freezing temperatures that first produced snow that quickly turned to compacted ice. Massive icicles formed around my home and for days they stoically hung there, solid with no melting or dripping. They were so clear that you could see through them, though with a rippled distortion.
As I gazed through the ice I wondered, how often do we become frozen and harden, causing our view of what lies ahead to become obscured? My reflection was not abstract or rhetorical, but practical, as I could feel my own heart hardening. Nothing about my holiday had gone as I had planned. Like most people, I had planned time off from work to travel to be with family and friends. The weather had other plans. My family plans were “rescheduled,” as we could not bare the thought of “canceling” our time together, yet again, for a second year in a row.
I sat alone in my condo, feeling my heart harden like the ice on the streets. This is not what I wanted. I did not want another year of holiday isolation. Hey God, are you listening? God was listening.
When I was could finally maneuver my car, I drove over to church to set up for our Sunday service. I had seen an email about the need for snow removal at the church, so I threw my shovel into the trunk of the car and headed over. Not that I wanted to spend part of my New Year’s Day shoveling snow at church, but it had to be done and I had no plans.
I joined the lone parishioner outside working to clear snow and ice. The goal was to clear the walkways, get de-icer down, and shovel out a few parking spots closest to the church entrances. I set to work on one side of the building and my partner on the other. As we worked our way back toward each other, we both tackled a small cluster of parking spaces.
Just then a man turned into the church driveway, rolled down his window and asked if we had enough de-icer. While we had some, we clearly were not going to have enough. We attempted to explain our situation. The man in the truck asked if he could give us a bag of de-icer. He pulled a 50-pound bag out from the back of the truck and placed it on the walkway. He proceeded to tell us that this was part of his personal business, clearing and de-icing parking lots, etc. We offered to purchase the bag, but he insisted, saying he saw us shoveling and was just trying to help. We gladly accepted. As he departed, he coated the alley behind our church with a solution that would help the ice melt away and then he was gone.
My shoveling partner turned and asked me, “were you praying just then when he drove up?” I confessed to him that I find repetitive physical activities, like shoveling snow, to be prayerful, however, I was not praying specifically for a man to drive up in a truck, give us de-icer and treat our alleyway. That was truly a God moment, sending us a “snow angel” to help us thaw our ice.
I leaned on my shovel and considered the warmth and kindness of this man, his generosity towards strangers and his expression of Christ’s love. I could feel my heart thaw in the warmth God’s presence. Even in my personal frustration and sadness, and the physical toil of shoveling ice, God was fully present, reminding me that my peace comes from the Creator. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5) The warmth of Christ’s love can melt away the icy edges of our soul. We don’t need to ask or wait for it, but rather except through faith what is freely given.
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.