SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - It is the season of giving, but how often do you really give to your community? Pastor Michael Harris, Sr. of Sikeston, Missouri serves his community every day, and has for decades.
Harris is a war hero, former city council member, and so much more. Now he's an Everyday Hero.
In his more than 24 years as a Missouri National Guardsman, Harris served his country and community honorably. He earned two Bronze Stars and completed many missions, including a tour of duty in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"What I tell people about Iraq is it's an experience I wouldn't trade for the world, but at the same time I wouldn't wish it on anybody," said Harris.
Harris's service didn't start when he put on the uniform.
"My service to the community started way before I went to Iraq," said Harris.
In his hometown of Sikeston, it might be easier to list the organizations Harris has not been involved in, rather than those he has.
"I've served in a number of organizations. To name them all I'm sure I would forget some," Harris said. "I served with Sikeston Lions Club, of course. The NAACP, Sikeston City Council, Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium, Habitat for Humanity, Southeast Missouri State University Foundation Board, Sikeston Ministerial Alliance... and oh, I'm the pastor of open door fellowship ministries."
When asked why he gets involved with so many groups, Harris had a simple answer.
"I guess it's because people ask me, and I say, well - yeah," said Harris,
Harris says his desire to serve goes deeper than that.
"Giving is just kind of in the blood," said Harris.
Harris says his father, a plumber, frequently donated his services to those who couldn't afford it. According to Harris, his grandfather, a grocery store owner made sure families in the area never went hungry.
"He was a very giving guy," said Harris. "The story goes, after he passed away and they opened up the store safe there were just a bunch of credit slips. I.O.U.s."
Harris says his family and others have given him so much in terms of opportunity and knowledge throughout his life that he is determined to give back.
"Paying it forward," Harris said.
That's why he and his wife established scholarships in their names for students at Southeast Missouri State University, and helped create a community garden to nourish their church community with healthy home-grown foods.
"I don't feel like I have any I.O.U.s outstanding because I have received more from others than what I've given, and I'll continue to give as long as there's a need for it," Harris said.
Harris is also a devoted husband, father and grandfather.
"I think what I love about him most is that he is a good father," said Harris's wife, Dr. Maude Harris. "I used to wonder what would happen to my kids if something was to happen to me, but I know they'll be okay because he would take care of them. That's a very good feeling to know that the person you're married to you can trust with everything you have."
Harris doesn't take a break, even on Sundays. He's a pastor at Open Door Fellowship Church in Sikeston.
"We like to think of ourselves as a small congregation with a big heart," said Harris.
Among his favorite topics to teach from the pulpit is living a life of service to others"Sometimes I tell the congregation you may be the closest thing to a bible that some people will ever read, so you've gotta life a life that they can see the good things you're doing," Harris said.
If you know someone worthy of being an Everyday Hero, just click here to make your nomination.
We'll profile an Everyday Hero each month on Heartland News and all of our heroes will be honored at the annual Red Cross recognition luncheon.