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March sadness...

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In a number of circles, the term "March Madness" is an exciting time of the year. During this month, the NCAA takes center stage with both its men's and women's basketball tournament. A field of 68 (this includes the play-in games on Tuesday and Wednesday for the men) or 64 takes on the daunting task of "one and done"; even the best teams have an opportunity to lose, as evidenced by Duke's loss to Mercer (on Friday), Stanford (a #10 seed) disposing of Kansas (a #2 seed), and Stephen F. Austin with a chance to reach the Sweet 16.

Like you really had those picks, and please don't say that you saw it coming, because you did not (and yes, my bracket looks like a broken finger painting). Then again, there are other things you didn't see coming this month either.

For example, did you take notice of the "happenings" in the Georgia Assembly? Of the many things discussed and voting upon, could someone please explain how (among other things) that churches (and other buildings) are able to allow gun permit owners to carry their firearms as long as said building or entity chooses to allow it? Did you also take note to the fact that the poster child for the "Stand Your Ground" law, George Zimmerman, recently did (among other things) a book signing and publicity tour (as if the case has not generated enough attention to the disconnects regarding the application and interpretation of the law)?

There are already enough ares of concern, individual and collective, that people either have to face or are going to eventually face. The topics of education, the pipeline to prison, the need for male-mentoring and other related programs (for both genders, but especially for men of color given disconnects ranging from discipline rates to incarceration rates), the increasing costs of higher education, health and wellness, and the environment are among the items that are in need for more problem-solving. Compounding the issues at hand are akin to putting kerosine on a fire; if not contained, the potential for things running more amouck abound.

Even in my adopted home-area of Winston-Salem (NC), a sad case of a young man randomly walking happens to get acquainted with the worst form of randomness, a bullet (or more than). As one of my colleagues (Jessica Fisher) notes, "When did we begin to devalue life so much so that we can kill a person and not think twice about it?"

Sometimes, people take their cues from the examples they see (or don't see), along with the leadership that is present. Just as vigorous as a certain group of lobbyists likely are in allowing you to "praise the Lord and pass the ammunition", so too are more people going to have to be as vigorous and vigilant in being reflective of the changes they would like to see in their immediate community. When more are aware of what others are doing, it can provide the impetus for all of us to evaluate what we are doing and what things we can do in order to make things a little bit (or in some cases, a lot) better than what they are now. As dire and desperate as a number of things look, it doesn't mean they always have to be that way.

This is something I am reminded of at a capital campaign event this past Thursday; while the primary focus is on generating a 10-digit dollar amount to provide improved access to resources through the means of higher education, something else is shared, and that happens to be the story of individuals who are committed in making a positive difference in making things better so things do not get worse. Ranging from one person whose nonprofit provides opportunities for those who have done their time (in the prison system) to get the training and opportunities needed to re-enter the workforce, to a person whose nonprofit works with middle and high school students, or to a person who works with educating and empowering young people who are blind (in light of the fact he too is blind) provides more than the imagery needed of things getting better. It is a reminder that the greatest threat to society today, "...is the gradual erosion of our humanity."

Perhaps it is time for a reboot and a renewal for all to identify their time and talents and put them to the greater good. We are all aware of the outcomes if we fail to invest, so consider that when you feel there is nothing you can do or you do not feel that a certain issue isn't yours; it actually is all of ours.

We have to believe better days are coming; keep the faith, but get up, get out, and do something for the greater good.

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