“When it boils right down to it, they saved my life. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

The following is a first-hand account of Billy Harris’ experience with Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma. The Wagoner man and his wife, Sherry, lost everything in a home fire on May 6th. He came to Catholic Charities looking for help…

I was working pouring concrete. I poured concrete my whole life. That’s all I ever know.

 All hope is lost

Then I got sick. They found some lumps in my lungs. I couldn’t work no more because I couldn’t breathe. All of the money was already gone, depleted. We were surviving, but barely surviving. Then this fire happened. I was out in the yard and I just fell down and started crying. “What am I going to do now? What am I going to do now? I’ve lost everything.” It was heartbreaking. Everything I owned just up and gone.

I felt by myself. I asked God, “Please, what do I do now? You said you’d never put too much on me and I feel like now You’ve overloaded me. God, if You don’t help me, I’ll never get through this.” Ever since then, He’s opened doors.

I’ve heard about Catholic Charities before, but I thought, “I’m not a Catholic.” I really don’t know what I am, but I don’t think I’m a Catholic so they won’t help me, but I called anyway.

 Walking through the doors

Billy discusses his case with Todd Slezak, Emergency Assistance Coordinator at Catholic Charities.

The first time I came to Catholic Charities, I just felt peace…something I hadn’t felt in a long time…that everything’s going to be OK.

Todd Slezak of Catholic Charities assured him, “We’re going to get through this.” Todd’s done everything he’s told me he’d do. MaryLynn’s done everything she told me she’d do. “Glad to help you, Billy.” That’s all he would say. “We’re going to get your house back in order. I’m not going to leave you with a partially finished house. I want you to have somewhere safe and somewhere comfortable because you’re sick.”

No matter what, it’s going to be a rough road, but it was all going to be OK. There was just peace in my heart because I knew that somebody cared. Not just somebody I knew, but a complete stranger cares about the way my life’s going to turn out, and cares if I’m on the street, or if I have something to eat. Things like that.

I am so scared of leaving my wife, Sherry, behind by herself, and her trying to fend for herself out there with a half completed house, or nowhere to go, or nothing. Now I know, this house, we’re going to be able to spend the rest of our life there, comfortable. When I get really bad, she’ll be able to take care of me, not in a tent, but in my own bedroom.

Way more than just food and clothing

My lifestyle is changing, too…I don’t know how you say it. It’s changing where God will be proud, be happy. He wants you to serve Him and do good things. God don’t like ugly. I try not to be ugly. I try to say “What would God do?” Catholic Charities has done so much. They’ve opened my eyes that God does love me, and I am worthy of God’s love. I am worthy of God’s love. I’ve been reading my Bible. I haven’t done that in a long time. I pray every night. I pray every morning.

Volunteer Judy Schiffli helps Billy find clothes to replace the ones that burned.

When it boils right down to it, Catholic Charities saved my life. There’s no doubt in my mind.

I was ready to give up because I worked all my life and all of a sudden you can’t work. You can’t take care of your family. You don’t know where your next meal coming from. You don’t know if you’re going to have money for medicine.

I’m not promised tomorrow, but I thank God every day for today because I was at the point I didn’t even want to go on living. I wasn’t wealthy or nothing like that but I was able to provide for my family, for me and Sherry. We didn’t go to bed hungry or nothing.

Now things are getting so much better. It’s just because of God, and it’s because of Catholic Charities, they got me back in contact with God. God opened my heart and I let God come back in. I really believe that because if you know somebody cares about you, it makes you care about yourself, too.

Catholic Charities has shown me that there’s people out there, and they really love and care about me, and wanted what’s best for me, and not just tell me that, but show me that in the things they’ve done for me. They didn’t have to help me, but they wanted to and that meant everything to me.

That was the difference in life and death for me.

Love Changing Lives

Catholic Charities, they’re saying “Love changing lives”. There’s so much truth to that. It’s easy to kick somebody when they’re down, but it takes love to reach down and grab somebody’s hand and pull them back up. There’s not many people that does that anymore. Catholic Charities, they really showed me the meaning of love. They was willing to help me. Not just once, to make sure they helped me all the way through until my problems started getting better.

They didn’t just put a Band Aid on it. They wanted the wound to heal. That’s love, not just putting a Band Aid on it for a little bit, but trying to help you fix the problem and get your life better.

Catholic Charities, they love everybody. Whether you’re Baptist, Catholic, or whoever. If you walk through that door needing help, they’re going to do their very best to help you or put you in contact with somebody that can help you.