Barbara Harris was the third child of the dozen children ushered into this world by Ethel and Donald Fairweather. Boo, as we called her, born March 23, 1930, attended Ms. Annett Maheia’s School; St. Hilda’s College; the Belize Technical College majoring in Home Economics and SJC Extension majoring in Book-keeping and Accounting.
Her paid and unpaid employment history extends from 1949 through 2011. She began in 1949 as a book-keeper for the Colonial Insurance Company; 1952 through 1955 as a stenographer with the Belize Estate Company; 1955 through 1968 as Manager of the Belize Bookshop; 1970 through 1971 as Clerk at the US Embassy and from 1971 through 1991 as the US Peace Corp Program Manager here in Belize.
In our family Boo made sure that every sibling felt special, never forgetting a birthday or an anniversary. She gave us a kind word when you were hurting, kept her mouth shut when she realized we just needed to let off steam; she made sure we had our school books and new school shoes for our return to school after the holidays. As our big-sister, Boo could be depended on; she performed the duties of a surrogate mother throughout our childhood boasting about our accomplishments whenever someone asked how Rosie is or how anyone of us was doing.
When she got married to Neil Harris and gave birth to Lydia and Francis you could see her eyes light-up as she recounted what they said or did since the last time we spoke. In the past few years that spark in her eyes glowed even brighter as she spoke of her grand-children: Sydney-Paige, Haley, Abigail, Kevin Jr. and Drew. Boo could spend hours sharing the joy these children brought into her life.
I have always been amazed at her commitment to serve her family and the way this passion for service also extended to the community but, most importantly, it was always a love for the children, it is the youth that has been front and center. She was a founding member of the Young Women Christian Association and served to the last day of her life; she served the Girl Guides of Belize from 1942 to the present and served as the Treasurer of the Council of Churches for 30 years. Twice she deliberately did not attend the Council of Churches’ annual meeting but was still voted Treasurer in absentia. For her services she has been honored as Woman of the Year and last year was given the Belizean Patriot Meritorious Service Award.
All this is true but in celebration of her life today I want to recall a Boo we also know but may have overlooked what was at her core. The Boo who would give away the blouse off her back. The Boo who had me walking for miles through mud and water to be with the Youth Conservation Corp camping in the Jaguar Preserve. The Boo who also introduced me to the Youth Enhancement Service to underline the fact that we must do all we can to encourage and support our youth. And her commitment to youth did not stop her from finding the time to be a member of her block watch and finding time to commit to the church choir.
We would remind Boo that Anglicans don’t offer sainthood, slow down – take it easy. Once, I jokingly asked her if God spoke to her and made this her “calling” as quite often we would chat about those who say that God told them to do this, God told them to do that. But Boo never claimed that God had spoken to her.
She has caused us to reflect on why is it this sister of ours was so committed to service, always concerned about our youth and our community. I have found that, like me, most of us shun “grunt” work; we are waiting for God to give us a Special Assignment, something big, something grand.
Boo’s attitude is “do the written assignment and then God may call you for Special Assignment”. You see for her it is enough that it is written that we should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind AND Love your neighbor as yourself”.
The truth is if God gave me Noah’s assignment, I don’t know about you but I would say Lord let me start with Loving my neighbor. If God said “Moses – Go tell Pharaoh to let my people go” I don’t know about you but I would beg “Lord let me start with loving my neighbor”. We are just not ready for the big assignments until we complete the written assignment!
I will miss my sister but I am forever grateful for the vision she has given me as to how the world should be and what I should be doing. In celebrating her legacy let’s do our written assignment. Let’s plant seeds of love; love that will touch the heart of those we meet on our journey. Share that love of God that heals and strengthens. Let our blessings be a blessing to others and TODAY let us give thanks to God for the ways in which Barbara Louise Harris nee Fairweather has shown us to surrender to the will of God.
(Delivered by Norman Fairweather at All Saints Anglican Church Friday, January 28, 2011)