How they got to school

We were on day 5 of a trek in the Himalayas staying in a picturesque valley. The place had a few small rooms with beds and no running water or electricity. As we got to know the family that owned the place, we learnt that the kids needed to walk 14 kilometers through difficult mountain terrain every day to go to school and back.

To put that in perspective, 14 kilometers is what most trekking groups manage in a day of trekking. Such commutes are the norm in Himalayas and many remote places around the world where kids risk their lives every day to go to school.

I think of this from time to time as I remind myself of the difference between challenging, difficult, and hard. We are challenged by small problems often – these keep life interesting. Occasionally, we face difficulties borne out of the effect day-to-day living has on us. Life is difficult and it only ceases to be so once we accept that.

But, if you are reading this, it is likely that life is never hard. Hard is struggling for the basics, toiling in difficult conditions, and hoping to get some food to fill your stomach that day.

Our lives are regularly challenging, occasionally difficult, and never hard. And, understanding that helps keep perspective as we journey from one day to the next.

Easy and hard

Things that are easy to do: Procrastinate, criticize a person or initiative, destroy spirit, waste time and resources, be negative, forget commitments or don’t bother making them in the first place, over promise and under deliver, give in to the resistance, use fear as an excuse, never apologize, sacrifice authenticity and avoid the truth.

Things that are hard to do: Build something, fail, be happy, acknowledge failure,  be positive, embrace the struggle, express love, stand up for what you believe in, never tolerate disrespect, empathize, give, share joy, lead, follow, hug, and create.

We face the choice between easy and hard every moment. The more mature we are, the more choices we see. However, maturity only helps us see the choices – only our will power and determination can make us consistently choose the harder path. The hard path is, well, hard. But, it is better. And, even if we start with the best of intentions, after a series of inevitable failures, it may feel like the effort is not worth it.

Until it is.