I recently had the pleasure of hearing a sermon on embracing change. The preacher likened keeping the church locked up tight against change to an empty, shut up house that reeks of must, and how nice it is when you can open the doors and windows and let the light in. When that never happens, the house becomes a tomb.

Man, I loathe change. Even when it’s good change, my shoulders raise up near my ears, my breathing gets shallow and I get cranky. I just can’t go with the flow. When I finally remember to breathe and let go, more often than not, the results are positive.

The world we live in today is very different than when I was a kid, and I’m not that old, thank you very much. When I was young, college seemed like a good investment, and a lot pf people my age went. These days people are mired in lifelong debt for degrees that don’t always pay, and we are in the midst of a substance-abuse epidemic, so I’m pleased to see our state taking baby steps toward change in the way we treat these people.

Mississippi recently passed The Fresh Start Act which, among other things, prohibits license revocation over student loan default. As little as we pay teachers and as much as a four-year degree costs these days, how in the world is a person supposed to be able to keep up with student loan payments should something unfortunate happen? And before you start thinking, “Well, in my day we knew how to save,” please remember: the world has changed. Mortgages, rent, and general cost of living does not line up with compensation these days, no matter how conservatively one manages.

The Fresh Start Act also aims to make it easier for a person who was convicted of a crime to get a professional license. According to Brett Kittredge with the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the bill will require licensing boards to have “clear and convincing standard of proof” in determining whether a prior criminal conviction is cause to prevent someone from receiving a license.

Now, you may be thinking people who have committed crimes or been addicted to drugs should just bear the weight of past mistakes indefinitely, or that these people should not take jobs away from those who have never convicted of a crime, but I think we all know someone who wears the scars of addiction or poor choices.

Does that person not deserve to be able to get on with their life and contribute to their community? Should they forever remain shut out? Well, I don’t see many people knocking the door down to be a teacher in the lowest-paying state for educators in the country, and about one-third of the state’s workforce requires licensure of some sort. It’s time we embrace change.

I love Mississippi. I am a southerner through and through and I sometimes worry our fair state may go the way of that musty, closed up house whose doors aren’t open to receive the light. While the Fresh Start Act will probably not bring about radical change, I do think it points toward growth.

Emily Paul is the general manager of the Monroe Journal. She can be reached at emily.tubb@journalinc.com.

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