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Whitney HoustonWhile folks like Cicely Tyson, Phylicia Rashad, Maya Angelou, Voncile Mallory (my mother) and others are gracefully aging, we younger folks aren’t doing as well. Following the untimely passing of legendary singer and actress Whitney Houston, many seem fixated on her cause of death, alleged troubles and pretty much anything negative they can latch on to.

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But instead of focusing on how she died, we need to pay attention to how we live. When did you last jot down a list of your own demons? What does it mean to be a real, genuine friend to someone? Though we don’t know definitively what cut this multitalented woman’s life so short, we do know that life brings trials and tribulations for all of us and it’s time for a serious global intervention.

When was the last time you saw a friend doing something crazy and didn’t say a word? Why is it that we are taught to “mind our own business” and keep quiet even though we know somebody is engaged in destructive behavior? Not paying child support, cheating on a spouse, not taking care of kids, always borrowing money, constantly looking for the next hustle instead of getting a job… these are some of the things that if they don’t kill you, they’ll kill those around you. Let’s not pretend that they don’t exist.

Instead of just explaining away our issues, why not tackle them head on by first and foremost admitting that they occur. We simply cannot go around turning our backs to things like substance abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, gambling or any other form of troubling behavior. If you know someone suffering from depression, step in. If you think a friend is drinking too much or taking drugs, you have got to speak up. If a young person is talking about guns and violence, please, please, please do something.

Society often teaches us to be selfish, to go for our own. And though there’s nothing wrong with setting the bar high and achieving your goals, we cannot leave each other behind in the process. You’d be surprised how many of our co-workers, neighbors, friends or loved ones are suffering through a major battle, and they’re just one intervention away from a breakthrough. What are we doing to prevent him/her from heading down the wrong path? Instead of expressing regret after someone is gone, let’s take a hard look at how we’re living and how we’re treating the people in our lives.

We may never know the extent of Whitney’s battles. But we know she’s gone at 48 and that ain’t right. The lesson is that we must deal with our own lives and figure out what it means to be an honest friend to someone else. It doesn’t mean being there when things are great, or hanging out when it’s time to have fun. A true friend says something and takes action when they see things are wrong. A true friend is there when times are tough. A true friend intervenes before it’s too late.

A true friend cares less about the friendship and more about the friend.



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