By Tim Nash
“I live in constant pain and take powerful pain killers and muscle relaxers just to be able to get out of bed in the morning, and I’ve considered suicide more than once because of my condition. I can say the games in the NWSL have given me a reason to live. Thank you for being a wonderful human being, role model and great athlete to watch and follow. Your will to win is a breath of fresh air to me and lets me live each day.”
Ashlyn Harris gets a lot of letters like that. She also has strangers — kids, teenagers, middle aged women — come up to her after Orlando Pride or Women’s national team games and say things like, “You’ve given me purpose again. You’ve saved my life.”
Life-changing is an over-used, watered-down phrase we use to describe new jobs, books or movies, and the newest innovations in technology. But here’s a 31-year-old soccer player having an enormous impact on the most personal aspect of lives of people suffering with depression or addiction, people she has never met.
They’ve found something to identify with in this shark-loving surfer who once hit a bully across the face with a dead catfish. There’s something about her that draws people in, makes the feel safe. Maybe it’s the compassionate, understanding ear, or simply her willingness to listen that makes people feel better about their situation. More likely, it’s that in Harris, they see someone who has been where they are, someone who has struggled with depression, witnessed addiction, had thoughts of harming herself.
Whatever the reasons, she’s changing lives. That’s what Ashlyn Harris has chosen to do with her life. That’s where her passion lies, and in doing so she has done herself as much good as she has others.