McDowell Technical Community College

Overcoming Adversity

Congratulations to Michael Harris

By Doug Harrell

Madison County

Many people have challenges in life and those of you that have had the pleasure of meeting Michael are aware of his many challenges and maybe a few of his accomplishments as well.  Michael grew up in the Burnsville area and attended schools in that area.  In 2009 Michael graduated from NCSU with a degree in Forest Management and minors in Business Administration and Agriculture Business Management.  Shortly after graduating he went to work with a line clearance and arboriculture company in the Asheville area and was involved in an accident that changed his life forever.  A five-hundred-pound limb fell out of a tree and destined him to live the rest of his life as a paraplegic.  Since that time, Michael has accomplished many things to be proud of including marrying his beautiful wife Tiffany.  In August Michael received his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Gardner Webb University, graduating with a 3.95 GPA.

In talking with Michael, his love for his church and church family shows through in his conversation.  He and Tiffany attend First Baptist in Burnsville, where he and his family have been members for years.  One of the reasons that Michael gives for his being able to move forward with his life was the love and acceptance shown him by his church family, and he thanks them from the bottom of his heart.  Family and friends have also had a tremendous impact on his life, his dad and mother were totally supportive and were the ultimate care givers.  He lost his mother last year, and that was hard to handle. His father, Tony Harris, went through cancer and even in the face of all this, faith remained strong.  Childhood friendships have also helped carry him through hard times with fishing trips and other shows of support and acceptance of him with the different lifestyle he has had to live.

Michael wants to encourage each of us to be willing to really be supportive of those around us that face challenges of all kinds.  A warm smile and show of support can mean so much to someone that is hurting and facing struggles that most of us never face.  Let us all remember, there but for the Grace of God go I.

Congratulations to Michael on the continued journey of success that he and Tiffany are embarked on, thank you for letting your love of Christ continue to show through loud and strong in the face of adversity.  May God continue to guide your path and bless your efforts and thank you for being the example God would have you to be.  A light for others to follow by being the person you are. 

Comments from Michael:

In thinking of church, especially during these incredibly divisive times, it should be a place where we affirm one another.  Not criticize or degrade each other.  It should be the place where each person can be their true self, and not worry about what others think, because we all need to admit and know that we are sinners and fall short.  As a society, we love rules.  We love for someone to just give us the answer because we are intellectually lazy.  I feel this is not the correct approach in life, or faith.  If you go to church just to get answers, you’re not being intellectually challenged.  In order to learn and grow with God, you should leave with more questions than answers.  This way you want to know more, and search in order to learn.  In thinking of rules, I feel it would be awesome for churches not to display the ten commandments, but the beatitudes.  As the body of Christ on this planet, and in attempt to unite, we should not build walls.  We should build bridges in order to live out his mission outlined in Luke 4:18-19.  An authentic religion where the display of love, compassion, and empathy to everyone is seen, and where all who are weary and seek rest are welcomed is what people are searching for.  Seeing and experiencing acts like these show who God truly is, and it changes lives.  These acts are not experienced or seen in the rules or processes which so many desire and claim would fix societies problems (i.e. praying and doing the pledge of allegiance each day in school, being in church every time the doors are open, etc.).  They are seen and experienced by paying close attention to what is said in the red letters.  Following this example can help you act in such a way that you are proof of a living God.