Horace and Doris Farris
Everywhere I go I am looking for a little bit of “nice.” I remember a kinder, gentler, time when people treated each other with respect and did small acts of kindness with no expectation of reward or even thanks. There is an old saying, “You can’t see for looking,” and I believe that saying still holds true. I found what I was looking for when someone suggested that I write a little article about Horace Farris since his paper-cut angels are all over town, in Birmingham doctors’ offices, and some very unexpected places. Today I sat down with Horace and Doris Farris and learned a little bit about their lives together and about Horace’s unusual hobby.
Horace was born in Sylacauga in Drummond Frazer Hospital in 1932. His parents worked for Avondale Mills until they bought the Rainbow Market, opened a Rainbow Market#2 in Sycamore, and even operated a rolling store. Horace went into the army and returned to graduate in a continuation program at B.B. Comer High School. He then studied accounting at Reynolds Business College here in Sylacauga. His experiences led him to work in various places, but when his Dad opened Farris Grocery Store on the Oldfield Road, he became involved with helping him, even doing deer processing from his house.
Horace met Doris Martin at church at a gospel singing. His wife had passed away, and his friends, Cornelius and Ruby Dennis, suggested that he might enjoy meeting this good woman. She was playing the piano, and he went home on a happy note and made immediate plans to see her again the next night. Doris has been by his side for 30 years now, and she is very much an encourager for him to use his talents to encourage others.
Strangely enough it was when Doris had cancer surgery in a Birmingham hospital that Horace began paper cutting. Sitting in that waiting room, he saw a picture of a bunny in a magazine there and said to himself, “I believe I can cut out a bunny like that.” He took his Swiss Army Knife from his pocket and proceeded to do just that. Next he tried a cowboy like the ones he had seen at the Ritz in Sylacauga in the Saturday movies. Later when Doris was well enough to go home, she suggested that he cut some angels, but the halos gave him a little trouble. Again Doris reminded him that halos were not necessary, and Horace focuses on crosses, stars, and angels without halos. Always he writes a message on each one, “God loves you. So do I.” Now you cannot get any nicer than that, for that is exactly what the Good Book repeatedly reminds us is our task: “Love God and love other people.”
Horace has cut many, many, pictures since then: some rabbits, cowboys, children, but mostly angels and beautiful abstract designs. He believes his angels are in all fifty states and some foreign countries because he gets letters from people who have received them quite frequently. I saw a social media comment the other day from a woman who was telling her story of an older man giving her a cut-out angel on a very bad day and telling how much it meant to her. Horace sends angels on mission trips with churches, 200 to Haiti, 200 to Africa, and he is not shy about offering them to speakers at church or public events. That is the part of his ministry that would be most difficult for most of us, so I asked, “Do you ever walk up to someone and ask, ‘Can I give you an angel?’ and the answer is no?” Very rarely does that happen he says, only remembering one woman down through these many years who was ugly with her response.
Actually Horace is doing a kind of art that began in China and spread to Germany and Switzerland. It is called scherenschnitte. According to what I have read, you just need some copy paper and a pair of small scissors with sharp points, but Horace Farris uses all kinds of paper, even small circles off medicine bottle-tops, a Swiss Army knife, and a loving heart to make little pictures that could possibly be making a big impact on someone who needs encouragement. So be reminded by people like Horace Farris of those days, not so long ago at that, when people lived simpler lives and nice was not just a word in the dictionary. You may not be able to cut out an angel, but you can give someone, somewhere, a smile!!!