My bossy pal, Carol Harris

Apr 9, 2015 by

“But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” – Luke 22:32

When I moved to Nashville in 1995, I landed as a mother and wife to a husband that toured the world via the entertainment industry.  We have two children, then seven years old and four months old.  I didn’t know a soul except for the office manager at my husband’s company.  I located the nearest grocery store, Target, bank, and the YMCA.  I also sought out a church where I could possibly find connections and support.  Little did I know that I would find friends who would stand by me for the next twenty years.

James and Carol Harris, circa 1995, with their sons Kyle and William.

James and Carol Harris, circa 1995, with their sons Kyle and William.

My dear friend, Carol Harris, is an amazing woman of God whom I’ve had the privilege of knowing since 1995.  Carol and her husband, James, have two sons, the oldest becoming one of my son’s best friends since the age of seven.  It’s wonderful to be part of a church family where REAL relationships are forged, ones that allow you to go through life and face the many ups and downs while faithfully being when you need them.  We sang in the choir together, fussed after our children together, and walked through life together.  It was the best of times.

Unfortunately, we also faced the worst of times.  In 2009, Carol’s husband passed away suddenly after suffering a heart attack while playing basketball at church with the men’s group. I remember Carol’s oldest and my “other” son, William, calling me frantically from Los Angeles as he tried to contact her.  “Mama Ronei, I can’t get in touch with my mom.  Can you please help?”  The hours that followed seemed like a series of bad vignettes from a movie.  I remember driving to the hospital and spending the next several hours (and days) holding my friend’s hand as she said goodbye to the love of her life.  James was such a faithful man of God and a surrogate shoulder I could lean on when my husband’s touring schedule was grueling.  He always had a word of encouragement and loved my kids as if they were his own.  Those were terrible times.  Little did I know that my dear friend would return the favor when I called her with the news that my husband received his own death sentence of terminal cancer.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Oh no!  She now supports fellow widows in a ministry and supports others through the organization Ordinary Hero, a child advocacy group for children of Ethiopia.  I’ll let her tell the story:

Ronei:  Carol, thanks so much for allowing me to introduce you to my friends!!
Carol:  Absolutely!

Ronei:  Carol, I’ve been inspired and amazed at your courage and passion in supporting Ordinary Hero and your Mother’s Day project that you let me help with each year.  Tell the readers a little bit about how you got started on this amazing journey.
Carol:  It all started with a phone call from Kelly Putty, Ordinary Hero’s founder.  You remember…she called me to help escort the mothers and children from the Nashville Rescue Mission for the Fall Festival at church.  We would help them with costumes and escort them through the games and activities.  I helped every year, supported Kelly when she had speaking engagements, and accompanied her on a mission trip to Ethiopia.

Me:  I do remember!  It was such a blessing to see those mothers and children smiling and having fun!  What inspired you to start the Mother’s Day project?
Carol:  When James passed away, I wanted to pour my life into something bigger rather than sitting around mourning and being depressed.  I initially went with Kelly to the Nashville Rescue Mission which was, at the time, under renovation. During that time, the men and women were in the same place due to remodeling.  It really struck me to see the women in tight quarters with their children trying to keep them safe and comfortable.  I especially noticed that the women were dragging their personal belongings around in trash bags.  I noticed they would read trashy novels or anything they could get their hands on due to being bored.  I asked Kelly, “Can we try to do something specific for the women there?”  The Lord impressed upon me to bless the women by going into the “storage” or excess and bless the women.  ‘Go into your closets and give out of the excess of what you have’.  So, we sat down and compiled a list of folks we could approach for donations.  We only had small grocery bags the first year, but we filled them with various small and personal items for the women.  After the first year, Kelly said, “Carol, you have a passion for this.  I don’t need to do this, you do it!”  No fanfare or special announcements are made in advance – we just show up and bless them.  Some people are there temporarily; we may not see the same ladies each time.  There was one lady in particular that I remember.  She didn’t know who I was, but she was still at the mission the second year we visited.  She came up to me and said, “When you came last year, I didn’t think you would remember us this year.  Thank you.”  We’re now in year five!!

Carol with 250 bags for the 2014 Mother's Day Project

Carol with 250 bags for the 2014 Mother’s Day Project

Filling Mother's Day gift bags with generous donations. May 2014.

Filling Mother’s Day gift bags with generous donations. May 2014.

Even the littlest hands helped with preparing the Mother's Day bags!

Even the littlest hands helped with preparing the Mother’s Day bags!

Ronei:  Carol, you mentioned James’ passing.  I remember that day and never dreamed that I would have to call upon you when Sam was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  When was the moment when you knew you had to do something to change the course of your life?
Carol:  When you go through a devastating loss as I did, your emotions are all there, raw and out of control.  What do you say to someone who goes through this?  I had friends, prayer, medication, all things necessary to help me calm down.  I shook for three or four days.  Then there are things that only you and I know – those gut times.  “I don’t understand this God.  I had this dream and that dream, but you didn’t tell me this would happen to James.”  The grief pulls you in and then you’re spinning.  Seeing my mother go through depression throughout her life, I vowed in my natural self that I was NOT going to go there.  When you see the face of depression and where it takes you…I’ve seen the taste of that bitter cup and I don’t want that.  Back in the day, folks like my mother didn’t embrace their grief and process it.

Ronei:  Yes, I remember it well.  The grief overwhelms you and wants to drag you down.  What did you learn from that experience?
Carol:  Rather than allow the vortex to suck you in and take you down, let it empower you to do something bigger than yourself.  Life doesn’t give us permission when such loss takes place – it just happens.  Embracing it gives you the power to be able to go through something like that and doesn’t allow it to overwhelm you.  It is in our weaknesses that His strength comes.    I would always tell people, “This is the grace of God – if you want to see grace, take a look at me.  It’s all Him.  It’s walking through this time.”  Everybody knows it was hard, but here I am.

Ronei:  Yes, girlfriend, here we are.  So, how can folks help with this year’s Mother’s Day Project?
Carol:  I have a list of items that we need to fill our Mother’s Day gift bags (click on the picture below).  They can donate items from their own personal storage of extra items, they can purchase and send them, or we take monetary donations to purchase the items.
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Ronei:  Carol, my friend, you continue to inspire me with your trips to Ethiopia and your continued passion to help the mothers of the Nashville Rescue Mission.  I can’t wait to bless them again!!

Carol Harris 2

My beautiful friend, Carol Harris, today. What an example of faith, courage, and love!

If you would like to help Carol and find out more about the Mother’s Day project, you can find her on Facebook under Carol D Cole Harris or contact her at wjcdharris@aol.com.

 

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