by Richard C. Harwood for The Christian Citizen

I know a lot of people who feel like they are hitting the pandemic wall these days. How about you? Others you care about and love? It’s a real problem in our lives. It’s not something to dismiss, push away, or pretend that it’s not happening. But there is something you can do about it—small steps you can take that can make a big difference.

It’s worth noting (briefly) what we’ve all been experiencing: a global pandemic, economic upheaval, a reckoning with systemic racism and social injustices, and a long-simmering political crisis. These crises are happening all at once.

Let’s be clear about one more thing: for many Americans, these challenges have only laid bare the disparities and inequities they have been enduring for generations, and which we must take action to address.

The reality is that the unrelenting nature of these conditions can make you feel tired and deeply fatigued. You may feel angry and frustrated by what’s happening, perhaps enraged. You may feel alone; maybe deeply lonely. There are also some of us who feel that we must try to be all things to all people; and that no matter how hard and fast we run, we must run harder and faster. We must do more. But there are limits to what we can do, and what we can do well.

In times like these, we can feel adrift. We can feel that we are being pushed and pulled in all directions. We can feel like the wind will knock us down and off our feet if it hasn’t already. We can lose our sense of grounding—of what we believe, what we stand for, what matters most to us.

In February, I started a new three-part series in partnership with the Greater Clark Foundation in Winchester and Clark County, Kentucky about how people there can care for their community and care for themselves. I hope I can bring this series to more communities, because I have come to believe it is desperately needed.

One of my opening suggestions in our initial session was to ask people to give themselves permission to focus on the “basics.” You know, in times like these, we can believe we must seek out remedies and solutions that are the most sophisticated, the most complex, the most complicated… the most impressive sounding.

But I have found in my experience working with people in communities over the past 35 years that it is often the most basic things we need to remind ourselves of when we feel most adrift and at loose ends. These basic things can ground us again, give us purpose and meaning, help us navigate the crosswinds.

So, I asked people—and I ask you today—these two basic questions: “When thinking about your community, what gives you hope today?” Answer that one first. Once you do, then ask: “When it comes to working in the community, I stand for  ___________?” Then, “Why?”

I urge you to take a moment and jot down your responses, then place them where you can readily see them, and look at them throughout your day, especially when you feel like you’re hitting the wall. If you can stay grounded in these times, you can find a way forward.

Give yourself permission to refocus on the basics.

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.