by Richard C. Harwood for The Christian Citizen

There are times in your life when you become so angry, frustrated, scared, enraged, or feel threatened that you just want to walk away and give up. Now may be one of those times for you. I am hearing this from so many people. Perhaps I can hear you whispering such things as well.

There are Black, Brown and Indigenous people who have suffered injustices and systemic racism dating back to before the founding of this nation. They want to know, when will we be heard, and when will the deep changes needed come?

There are people whose lives have been wracked by upended local economies, opioid and meth crises, and decimated communities who feel abandoned, left behind, deemed inadequate, inept and ignorant by others. Will they be further denigrated and be sold more false promises?

There are people who voted for the former president and those who voted for President Biden who hold seemingly irresolvable differences on various issues, election fraud, and who is the rightful president. Can we even talk with one another?

All of these challenges are happening while we endure four simultaneous crises—the global pandemic of Covid-19, the resulting economic upheaval, systemic racism and social injustices, and a political crisis.

The list of challenges before us can seem endless. The list of differences, grievances, loss, pain, sorrow, and traumas that roil our lives are real.

Is our nation coming apart at the seams; will we divide ourselves up into opposing groups? Where do we go from here?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” The only way forward is together — not such that we smooth over our challenges, but that we confront and address them with newfound courage and humility.

I do not wish to offer here a 4-point plan for democratic renewal, 5 steps to bridge divides, or 10 ways to get along with your neighbor. There is time for those. In fact, in recent weeks I’ve offered ideas about civic faithwhat you stand for, and 4 mantras for taking action. But not today, not here.

Today I want to remind you to keep going. Don’t walk away. Never give up. Against all odds, King persevered, he persisted, he engaged and pushed, he insisted on not being seen as an “outsider.” He loved this country knowing full well all its failings.

It is easy to feel dissuaded today—deflated, defeated, and diminished—to want to turn away from others and find some resting place.

But listen carefully, and you can hear King calling to each of us—calling to you—to step forward. “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable,” he said. “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

We are called to build a more just, fair, equitable, inclusive, and hopeful society. In these troubled times, we cannot—must not—seek to go back to “normal.” Our fundamental task is to re-imagine and recreate our lives, communities, and this nation.

On this day, my message is simply to remind you of what you already know—never give up, and never give in. Please, hang in there.

Richard C. Harwood is president and founder of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization located in Bethesda, Md. He is the author of the bestselling book, “Stepping Forward: A Positive, Practical Path to Transform Our Communities and Our Lives.”