Believe there is good in the world.
These words are some of the first words I see each day as I wake up. They hang on the wall of my home and are a constant motivation to me.
Today, after a long day of navigating the uncertainty of life as my precious mother (soon to be 80) struggles with the terror of cancer, these words give me comfort and motivation to move forward in an uncertain world with the certainty of this: We all have the ability to “be the good.”
Today Mom worries about not just her own health but that of our country. Born in the 1940s, she remembers a day when things seemed much simpler and “American values” was a term everyone understood. As Momma just went on and on about all that is going wrong, I encouraged her to stop and pray and give thanks to our God, who holds her life and the world in His hands. He is all things good! We can get upset about things we cannot control, or we can bow to the King who has a perfect plan for all of us.
Believe it or not, I am the only female justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself as I drive into the court parking area to realize I am not dreaming. Since February 2016, my goal has been to “be the good” for our state, especially our families and children. I co-chair the Children’s Justice Commission, which works at the state level among the three branches of government to improve our child welfare system.
In Mississippi, I see great things happening all around. Since joining the court, we have reduced the number of children in foster care by 62% — that is a bunch of people doing good. We are leaving children safely in their homes and bringing in resources to help stabilize the home and equip parents to better care for their children. In Harrison County, they have gone from 792 children in foster care on Jan. 1, 2019, to 284 children in foster care on July 1, 2022. That is a 64% reduction.
One key to reducing children in custody has been the community stepping up to provide resources to meet the needs of these families. In Harrison County they have a huge building full of donated items cleaned and organized with care by volunteers. When child welfare calls come into the Child Abuse Hotline, child protection personnel no longer have to remove kids until resources are obtained by the parent. Instead, resources such as food, beds and clothes are being donated and brought into the home, and services related to mental health, parenting skills and the like are provided so that we can leave the family together. Research shows that children do better if they remain in their home, and we provide services to address needs. This could not be done without lots of people being involved in “being the good.”
I urge our state leaders to work together to develop vital technology to connect resources with the many needs in Mississippi. Other states are doing this, and we can, too.
To my fellow Mississippians, I urge you to believe there is good in the world and to do your part to be the good. Each of us has a gift or skill that can be used for good — mentoring, tutoring, encouraging and on and on. Contact your local service providers and ask how you can volunteer. Pray, and I promise you God will open your eyes to the needs He has prepared you to meet. A judge once told me “Your greatest joy will come in serving others.” That is so true. It’s a win/win. When we meet the need of someone else, the gift of hope is received by both parties. Believe there is good in the world — be the good!
- Dawn Beam is an associate justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court. She resides in Sumrall.