Last week, I learned how to weld.

It was nothing like I expected.

I have to confess that I was imagining more noise, more fire, more heat, more old-fashioned-blacksmithing gross motor work.

Welding, as it turns out, is precisely the opposite. To start a stick weld, you have to delicately scrape a piece of metal with a thin metal rod. Go too fast, and you won’t get the short circuit needed to start the weld. Go too slow, and your rod will stick to the metal.

Once you begin, there are other considerations. If you push down on the rod with inconsistent pressure, the weld will be inconsistent and weak. If you don’t apply enough pressure, you’ll end up with a thin weld, or scorch the metal underneath. Going to fast or too slow can create weak or sloppy welds, too.

It requires patience, precision, grace, good timing, experience, and if you can find it within you while operating a machine that heats metal to hundreds of degrees, a good sense of humor.

It’s hard to make hard things come together.

The same thing is true of people; there’s a reason why calling someone hard-hearted or hard-headed is not considered a compliment.

I think our world is experiencing an epidemic of hard-heartedness: a collective desire to remain separate, remain stubborn and absolute in our positions, not to meld and blend with those around us, not to bond, not to combine, to resist unity and fusion, to lack softness for those we deep to be different from us, to be difficult to combine or to collect.

The harder we are, the harder it is to become part of something greater than ourselves.

This is an old problem–people (particularly leaders) who are deaf to the cries of the hurting, who lack softness, are as old as storytelling itself. But we can build communities filled with softhearted people–communities like ours here at the Farm School.

And when the world gets hard, the persistent people of good humor–the soft-hearted ones–can be those who weld and meld the world back together.