This month I am considering two kind promises: “I will surrender patiently” and “I will advocate courageously.” They work together to help me discern a middle way.

Once again, I return to the serenity prayer: “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

When I am in situations that are painful or uncomfortable and I know there’s nothing I can do about them, I want to surrender patiently.

When I find myself experiencing or witnessing an unjust situation, I get angry. If I am lucky, I can use that anger as fuel to take action to change the situation for the better. Often, it seems that injustice is built into systems. People who are in power or enriched by the status quo are not willing to change what is. They don’t want to lose the advantages it brings them. That’s one reason change is so difficult.

I am holding two situations in my heart today: the current pandemic and the need for racial justice in the US. Both are huge and leave me feeling angry and helpless.

The pandemic

Living across from a public park, I see people gathering for concerts. They sit near each other, mostly unmasked, and listen to the music. I look out and wonder at their impatience and willingness to take risks. The COVID-19 Dashboard tells me Hennepin County (where I live) has had 2644 cases and 892 deaths. The virus is no less deadly than it was in March and yet people are partying. Their patience for quarantine has run out and they are pretending that there is no more danger.

On one hand, I understand their willingness to return to normal. The summer is almost over. Why not enjoy what’s left of it?

On the other hand, the risk is real. People are continuing to get sick. Some will die. That’s a huge price to pay for a few moments of togetherness. Like by the systems impact more

I have difficulty breathing on a normal day. I dare not risk contracting a virus. I will stay inside, perhaps for another year, until I have access to a safe and reliable vaccine. I will surrender patiently to the need for quarantine.

Racial justice

The systems around us are unjust. People of color are disadvantaged to death. It may be a relatively quick end by police or the slower grinding destruction and of poverty, unequal health and education systems, and dehumanization. It’s past time for a change.

When it comes to advocacy, I bring my eyedropper to the ocean. I can educate and examine myself, encourage others to do the same, and vote responsibly.

Here is an area where holding these two promises in tension is useful. Social justice is a slow process. It takes constant effort over a long period of time. I want to be patient and, at the same time, never give up, but continue to advocate.

The most effective action for change includes both courage and patience. Courage includes moving forward when you can’t see the road ahead of you and you don’t know exactly what the outcome will be. Patience means taking the next step that appears to be right without expectation of result or reward.

Step by step, we move into the unknown, hope a trembling flame in our hearts.