Sometimes we need to remember to do what we can, not what we can’t.

With so many intractable problems — racism, environmental devastation, illness, poverty and homelessness, hate and fear — we feel overwhelmed with what we cannot change. Courage, Grace, Wisdom and Hope can lead us forward.

When we feel like we are in a dark room with no idea of how to get out, Courage guides us over obstacles and along the walls to find the door or the light switch. When we do what we can — not what we can’t — about the enormous problems and persist when we hit the inevitable barriers, Courage helps us make a way out of no way.

When we feel discouraged about what we can’t do since every direction seems to lead to a wall, Grace gently comforts and calms us.

Making changes to solve complex and unyielding problems takes being pushy, constantly urging ourselves and other people to move ahead. Constantly seeking new strategies that might make a difference, constantly getting told “Wait, this takes time”, when their answer is really “No”.

Making change has to be strategic but it cannot be so polite that it does not respond with “How many lives are going to be broken while we wait? How much worse will the situation be later? We must act NOW.”

Hope keeps us going.

But sometimes Wisdom shows us that it is time to step back and we receive the grace and humility to acknowledge that. Wisdom helps us discern when to keep pushing and when to accept our boundaries.

What are some of our opportunities for change and where are those boundaries?

Hate and fear often drive public policy and community relations and even personal interactions; “security” risks dominate discussions of how to manage people and politics; militarization, policing and weaponry are considered the way to protect ourselves. Courage, Grace and Wisdom can change the divisiveness by helping us listen to each other to find ways that all can be appreciated rather than seen as the enemy.

Storms increasingly sweep away people’s lives or their livelihoods and force them to leave their homes. Courage prompts us to change our government policies to protect the air from methane leaks (and intentional venting) and carbon dioxide and safeguard our water from pollutants.

Wisdom can lead us to choose energy-efficient transportation and insulate our homes and put solar panels on our homes and businesses and places of worship. Grace can show us how to teach our children and grandchildren about respect for the Earth, using words and the example of our own life choices.

Childhood poverty is increasing and babies are homeless. Courage can direct us to change our public and business priorities so that their parents have opportunities to earn a living wage and can rent or buy good places for them to live.

People fleeing violence are turned away from our borders, even those who have gone through years of scrutiny to get refugee status. Grace is our companion in welcoming newcomers and Courage empowers us to stand against government policies slash the number of legal refugees admitted.

We hit the wall repeatedly as we confront hate and fear, the drivers of climate change, the complexities of poverty and immigration. But Hope keeps us trying to find ways to transform this to love. We pray for Wisdom to point us to Grace to help us accept that there is much we can’t change and to Courage to still change what we can — to make a way out of no way.

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News & Record columnist Beth McKee-Huger is an Episcopal deacon and housing advocate.

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