Harry Hanks: Shining Light

Harry Hanks was a joyful, kind, and gentle man. He was selflessly dedicated to helping the people of his community in Chingford, East London. His life is one of true inspiration and a wonderful example of how to be a shining light in serving others without the expectation of return. He knew, exactly as Tolstoy proclaimed, that we only truly come alive in ourselves when we live for others.

Harry had a profound impact on so many, yet he did so in the shadows, never announcing with trumpets, or for any form of personal glory. Each day he would be seen launching around East London, cheerfully singing, on a mission to spread compassion and hope to the people of Chingford!​ He was a positive force of nature, lighting up any room that he entered.

Harry grew up in abject poverty, working from a young age on the streets of the East End in London. He didn't speak much of his childhood, but the little he did share in his beautiful testimony is incredibly humbling, including how his family would often rely on donations of veg from the green grocer and the church bringing the family some bread.

Harry was a dedicated husband for sixty-four years to his wife, Doreen. At the very beginning of their marriage, he had to serve in the British Navy during World War II. He never really spoke about the war, such was his humilty. This was followed by working as a foreman on some tough building sites where sadly lost his hair through the shock of falling several floors.  True to form, he cried no woes!

Harry was a father of three children, Steven, Christopher, and Kay, and Grandad to seven, Gavin, Matthew, Karen, Joanne, Greg, Benjamin, and Daniel. He was an absolute hero to his family, always so kind and fun, giving all around him everything he had in energy and love. He also set such a beautiful example in his frugality and generosity, owning little, and giving what little he did have to those in need.

Harry lifted and saved the lives of so many people, and he did so with humour and a real brightness of spirit. Working for London City Mission, they once published an article where a lady named Helen, in her courageous testimony, shared the story of how Harry helped save her from a tough and lost life. He did this for so many others as well.

Harry was a rare person, but he was not extraordinary. He had no extraordinary talents; he had zero grades from school; and he certainly had no privilages. But what he did have was an unwavering commitment to building the virtues required to be selfless. He was by no means perfect, but he at tried his very best to be so! And it's Harry's spirit that guides everything we do.