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I cannot remember a more intense time than we are in now. We are on the verge of high stakes changes in federal public policy that will affect every one of us and our descendants for decades to come.

It is not hyperbole to say that the future of our democracy is at stake. Federal action is required in order to protect both voting rights and fair elections that are under assault across the country.

At the same time, negotiations are reaching a fever pitch on our president’s Build Back Better Plan as a companion to a physical infrastructure bill. Choices on what is in and what is out, the total cost, and how it will be paid for will dictate not only the future of our planet but also the level of investment that we make in our people.

With all of this coming at us, it is critical that we keep our eye on the prize.

According to insiders in DC, the third week in October is crunch time for decisions in the Senate on one or more bills to protect both voting rights and fair elections.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is one of the people at the center of this decision-making process.

He has used his formidable powers of strength and persuasion to produce legislation that brings us closer than ever before to getting the job done.

Without bipartisan support, Democrats in the Senate now have to figure out how to use their majority of 50 senators plus the vice president as a tie-breaker to get past the threat of a filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.

Manchin has left the door open to finding a way to do this.

He needs all of the encouragement and support he can get from those of us back home in order to see this process through to a successful conclusion.

We need to be able to embrace him on the one hand while continuing to advocate for what we want in the Build Back Better Plan on the other.

We are challenged in terms not only of our energy but also our capacity to show our love while at the same time standing firm on exactly what is needed. Any of us who has ever had to practice tough love in our personal or professional lives knows very well what a difficult struggle this can be.

Shifting to a spiritual dimension, an interfaith group has come together to focus on fasting and prayer as a way to seek help from a greater power to meet this challenge. While the group itself is focused on voting rights and elections, many of the group members are fully involved with the Build Back Better Plan at the federal level as well as other issues that are closer to home.

It still comes down to each one of us digging deep in order to use our voices in these critical times.

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We need to give and accept strength from each other as an integral part of this process. Take care of ourselves and those closest to us. Enjoy the blessings and miracles that each new day brings.

An old friend taught me decades ago that if we are right we can win.

Our first priority needs to be to protect our democracy, right now, this month. We need to thank Manchin and show him that we are in his corner even when we cannot follow him into the rooms where so many of the key decisions may be made.

Then, in the same call or email or the next one, tell him what we as West Virginians need from him in terms of federal investments in our people and our planet.

We can do this, walk and chew gum at the same time. Embrace and advocate. Fast and pray while taking more worldly action.

Our hope is in action. Above all we need to sustain our energy to make whatever difference we can. Even as the days get darker between now and the winter solstice, continue to stay focused on the light.

Fall is my favorite season. In some ways I feel most alive during the crisp bright shining days.

This fall more than ever we are challenged to stay strong. In coming together as fellow West Virginians with so much more in common than whatever divides us, we can be a ballast and source of strength to our senior senator in DC.

Manchin has already shown us a path forward on the most critical issue of voting rights and fair elections. With our support, he will help to see the necessary protections through to successful passage.

I know that he can understand when we hang tough on the other issues we most care about. The realities we see here on the ground may be very different from those he has experienced.

Manchin still has much to learn from us. He has encouraged us to share our stories.

We need to continue to do this however we can.

He will be among the last people standing in the corridors and rooms of power in DC, and none of us here at home are going away.

Betty Rivard lives in Charleston.

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