JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- 36-year old Jay Harris, fashion designer and owner of the Straight and Narrow store in downtown Jacksonville, is living the dream.
"I think amazement and amazement because a lot of people are like, 'Jay you're doing your thing," Harris said. "I knew since I was a kid, I was called to fashion. It was a dream I always had."
But one it looked like he'd never achieve.
"Not having my father around, I always felt empty because of that. So, i always gravitated to things that were kind of off," he said.
Like robbing, fighting, selling guns and using drugs.
Harris said he got involved in criminal activity to fill a void.
"My friends up the street are changing the oil with their father and I'm down here like, 'I don't know nothing.'"
Harris said he decided to get on the straight and narrow while sitting his church with his wife. In fact, Harris said he heard the voice of God.
"All God said was, 'you're going to die this week.'"
Harris said he instantly knew it was time to give up the street life.
"I went in there and said, 'God I love the drugs. I love chasing women' but I said 'it's killing me.' I said 'make me hate the things that I love so much.' That one specific thing changed my entire life."
Freed of violence and drugs, Harris was able to not only see and believe in his dream of owning a store but now he's using it as a place to feed the homeless, encourage young boys and hold weekly bible study.
"So, when I look at people and I see homeless people, I see young men who are struggling and in and out of jail, I see myself. Because I got blessed with this opportunity. It was a gift to me. Not because I'm a good. It's because god is good. So I try to give them and afford them the same mercies and grace."
That's why Harris is our "Hero Next Door."
"I go to sleep saying thank you over and over sometimes. I can't even get my prayer out to God. I just keep saying 'thank you because you took a mess and painted it a whole new deal.'"
Harris said he's a father of six and because his father wasn't present in his life, he makes sure he spends quality time with his children.
First Coast News