Supreme Court justice challenges Rotarians to get state’s ox ‘out of the ditch’

Published 9:29 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

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Using examples from the Bible and the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam issued a challenge to members of the Natchez Rotary Club this week.

“God’s plan is for us to make a difference in our world,” she said after sharing the message of Matthew in which Jesus explains “when I was hungry, you fed me; when I was thirsty you gave me drink; when I was in prison, you came to visit me.”

“When you serve the least of these, whether it is in Rotary or in the United States or around the world, you are making a difference,” Beam said.

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Beam pointed out the spirit of Mississippians in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2007, “when we weren’t worried if we were black or white or voted blue or red … we just got it done” in calling for a response to the challenges that face the state today.

“In Mississippi, just like back in Katrina when the ox was in the ditch and we needed to work … well, sometimes, the ox has been in the ditch so long we don’t even acknowledge it,” she said, explaining that Mississippians are in danger of becoming numb to the challenges that face the state.

“When one in four of our kids lives in poverty and 45 percent of our black children live in poverty … when one in five … of our kids go hungry – they are food deprived at some point … because we’re so used to it, sometimes our hearts are not moved to make the change,” she said.

Beam said the challenges stretch beyond simply children’s issues. “We could go on and talk about mental health. We could go on and talk about criminal justice reform and how some Black kids in our state almost think it’s a gimme that one day they’re going to end up in prison.”

And the time is now for Mississippians to make a change, she said.

“Sometimes are hearts are not moved to make the change, but the time is now. It’s our turn to make a difference,” she said. “God gives us talents and we want to be faithful, to use those talents.”

Ultimately, Beam said, everyone must acknowledge that he or she will leave a legacy.

“In life and death, we all will leave a legacy,” she said. “This parable talks about the goats (and the sheep) and how to act right …

“But as we think about Easter, about the blessing of Easter … why not take what your gifts and what your talents are (think about) how you can make a difference?”

Instead of being overwhelmed by the challenges in Mississippi or being stalled by focusing on differences, Beam challenged the Rotarians to simply act. “What if in Mississippi we got so busy focusing on our little piece of the mosaic that we forgot what color we are and where we live and all of those things that sometimes tend to divide us? If we get so busy doing all the good that when we back up, we see the incredible change in our state?

“I think we can do that.”