Sally Harris, NAB

NAOC has been a big part of my Salvation Army life since I first joined the National Advisory Board. The first one I attended was in Minneapolis. The NAOC moment of that conference was the keynote speech of Paul Harvey. I had never heard a speech that adequately described the significance of The Salvation Army in the world.  Paul Harvey delivered an inspired speech, an historical moment of glory.

But that was not “my” NAOC moment.

Mine came at the next NAOC, in Pasadena, California, where I served as co chair. I need to give some background. At the time of NAOC Pasadena, I had served as a member of the Manhattan Advisory Board for a long time. As a member, then chairman, I had suffered every time I would talk about the Army and my listener would respond “I had no idea.” It made me crazy. It still does. This is the largest charity in America, God’s army in over a hundred countries around the world and most people are clueless beyond the bells, the trucks, the thrift stores.

I was on fire to do something, to tell the story. I read and read the history and wrote a script for a documentary film, “Salvation Army 101”. What I learned changed me forever.  When William Booth says “I wanted God Almighty to have all there was of William Booth”, I have been challenged ever since.

The world premiere of “Salvation Army 101” took place in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. It was the opening plenary session. I was seated between my husband Fred, and my Mother, Ruth Altshuler who is one of only four life members of the National Advisory Board. The entire row behind us had the General and all the Commissioners. The lights went out. My image appeared on the screen.

I dedicated the film to the person who has inspired all the good that I try to do in my life, my Mother. That was part A of “my moment”. Part B, was when I saw the tears in the faces of some of the Commissioners and heard the words “You told our story, better than we do.”

With photos, footage and letters generously offered from everyone, everywhere, I assembled a collage of images, a patchwork of borrowed work set to my script. In some cases, I had half of what I needed. I had beautiful photographs of the Slum Sisters, but nothing of the slums where they worked. I had nothing of the San Francisco earthquake. For these, I went to the Photo Archives at the Library of Congress. I was fascinated at how many images are needed. The eye does its work quickly, it does not linger.