Carrie Bolton preaches a freedom message—and not just inside her church.
Originally published in Indy Week.
HENRY HUNTER WAS STILL A YOUNG MAN the day he learned Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. With a presidential penstroke, the world suddenly seemed too big for Hunter to stay on the farm where his family lived. “I’ve got to go for a few days and tell some folks about it,” he announced—and with his parents beseeching him to come home soon, he left his Eastern North Carolina home with the clothes on his back, the sandals on his feet, and a small supply of food to sustain him.
Days passed, then weeks, and he didn’t return. Hunter’s parents grew worried. What if he ran out of food? Worse, what if he had been attacked or even killed by white supremacists? Finally, after nearly a month, they saw their son walking up the road. He was visibly smaller; his clothes were torn; his feet were swollen. But he wore a radiant smile. It was as if he barely noticed how little he had eaten, or how little protection his flimsy shoes had given him. All he knew was that the past four weeks had been the most glorious in his life. “Every plantation I went to,” he said, “every village I went to, every roadside I stopped at, I left folks shouting and rejoicing, because I let people know they were free.”
* * *
Henry Hunter’s great-granddaughter Carrie was a little girl the day she heard that story. Too young to join her parents in the fields, she was staying with her great-uncle, an old, blind man who loved caring for children. That day, a dog had nipped at little Carrie, and the old man sat with her on the front porch, comforting her with his singsong retelling of the family’s history. “Oh, it was something else the day the word came down that we were free…” he began, and launched into the story of Henry Hunter’s freedom walk.
At the time, the girl didn’t understand the significance of the story, and it disappeared into her subconscious. But almost four decades later, when Carrie Hunter Bolton had grown into a minister and social-work professor, the memory returned to her—and her life made sense. She was truly Henry Hunter’s progeny, a woman who would wear her shoes thin, or go hungry, preaching the word that her people, indeed that all people—all of us—are free.
Bolton preaches that message in myriad ways. As board chair of the Chapel Hill-based Democracy South, she has been agitating for campaign-finance reform, making speeches so eloquent that they’ve been quoted on the U.S. Senate floor. She’s been an outspoken advocate for racial fairness in the Chatham County schools. She has taken on Carolina Power & Light over the issue of nuclear waste storage. She fights drug dealers in her own community.
That’s in addition to motherhood and two full-time jobs. Bolton’s $25,000-a-year salaried job, as the pastor of the Alston Chapel United Holy Church outside Pittsboro, N.C., takes her on an endless round of hospital visits, funerals and revivals, in addition to the hours-long prayer services at her own church. On top of that, she serves as director of the Mary Neal Child Care Center, a job for which she wakes up at 5 o’clock every weekday morning and doesn’t accept a penny of salary. And she runs, without pay, a summer camp for some of the county’s poorest children.
“She absolutely is a godsend, because she’s a woman of vision,” says Margie Ellison, who supervises foster care and adoptions for the Chatham County Department of Social Services. “She brought to this community a we-can spirit, and she set before us a challenge to all of us to become part of that vision through our works.”
That vision is one of interconnected freedoms: Freedom to grow up with nurtured and stimulated and nurture. Freedom to live without racism and violence. Freedom from corporate greed and environmental contamination. Like her great-grandfather more than 130 years ago, Bolton sees herself as a messenger of these freedoms.
“There is a very powerful drive in me that I did not understand till the day I remembered the story,” says 52-year-old Bolton. “The drive is such that I forget myself in an effort to help others, to change things. There’s a restlessness in me that surpasses the need to be safe and to be comfortable. Even when I recognize the discomfort I bring myself, and the inconvenience, the asking more than I can actually give, the restlessness does not subside.
“When I picture my great-grandfather coming back smiling, it’s clear to me that his spirit was well and intact, and the external forces had not destroyed him, even though his outward appearance had surely taken a beating,” Bolton says. “The sacrifice is not too great when the message is so critical.”
But how much sacrifice can one person take—and still have the resources to deliver the message?
IT’S 11:15 ON A SUNDAY MORNING, and Carrie Bolton huddles with 17 associate ministers in the tiny study at Alston Chapel United Holy Church. At 5-foot-2, she’s the smallest person in the room. But her broad smile, square jaw, and head full of salt-and-pepper curls give her an enormous presence.
“This is the day that the Lord has made,” she says, as the others grow quiet. “And we’re gonna rejoice and be glad in it, aren’t we? I just want to lift up this morning again, how important it is that we will understand that the spirit of the Lord is moving in our midst and using us. There are needs today. Someone needs to be touched by our presence, and by the power of God within us. Don’t forget that need. It doesn’t matter how small, or how large, the task may be. Do it, out of obedience, because you never know what difference it will make. Amen?”
There’s business to attend to, news to share. “Carol called. She said, ‘Rev. Bolton, I’m getting ready to come to church and bringing my momma.’ And her biggest question was, ‘Do you think it would be all right to put momma on some pants? ‘Cause it’s so chilly out there.’ I said, ‘Put her on pants and socks and bring her on in!’ She wondered whether people will talk. I said, ‘I don’t think they’ll talk. If they do, let them talk.’… And I sure wish I had known that Deacon Reeves was staying home because he was concerned about the chill. Is there a chill over there where y’all are sitting? So we need to turn it up a little? You know, we sure need our new building. Because the truth of the matter is that, when we turn it up so high over there, do you see how the choir almost faints?”
Out of sight in the sanctuary, the electric piano gears up. The youth choir, directed by Bolton’s 17-year-old daughter Cindy, starts belting out hymns. The moment has arrived when Bolton must make the transition from shepherd to Pentecostal preacher. “Faye Mills is going to pray, then we will be ready to go out,” she says—and as Mills anoints the preacher’s forehead with olive oil, the tenor of the room changes. The prayer—”We ask you, Lord Jesus, for strength for our pastor”— is punctuated by a quiltwork of individual responses: “Hallelujah,” “Thank you, Lord,” “You know all about it.” The piano grows louder, and the voices build to a crescendo: “Oh God, we are looking for miracles (miracles Lord!) in this church (we need miracles!). And, God, I know you have planned something for us (thank you God!) in this church, Lord Jesus.”
The church leaders walk into the sanctuary, a small, simple room with bright red carpet and matching pew cushions. For the next two hours, the choir sings; elderly women dance; and Bolton preaches a sermon that ranges from ancient Babylon to the fourth row of her own church. It’s spring break, and many students are home from college. Bolton points them out one by one, and her eyes fill up as she introduces a young man named Kendrick Alston. “The first year at summer camp, Ken was a counselor,” she says. “And this child who was rather deprived—emotionally and financially and spiritually—attached herself to Ken. He nurtured her and the other children. But he came to me one day. He said, ‘There’s something I don’t quite know how to handle. She asked if I could be her daddy.’ I was just so touched by that. I said, ‘You go back and tell her that she has a father already, but you will be her friend, and you will be her big brother, and you will always care about her.’ ”
She looks at Alston, who has grown into a handsome man with the start of a beard. He is standing, holding a baby. “You remember that day?” she asks, and he does. The pastor continues: “Now he’s getting ready to graduate. And he’s drug-free and still has good manners.” The congregation breaks into applause. “So, Ken, I want to ask you something,” Bolton says, and she can barely push out the words through her tears. “As you graduate and go on to what the Lord will have you do in your career, for all the little children here, will you be their big brother and their friend?” Alston nods, and almost inaudibly says yes. Dry eyes are few and far between.
The choir sings again. Feet stamp. Tambourines rattle. An older woman in a blue suit and white hat is filled with the spirit; she shakes and shouts while two women fan her and another holds her up. The drummer and pianist go wild.
Bolton’s feeding on this energy, getting ready to preaching when the music finally dies down. “I suspect many of the women in this church have had the experience of having the wind get in your skirt tail,” she says, to the knowing laughter of her female parishioners. “That is a problem. Wind, for many of us, holds a rather negative connotation. How many of y’all remember Hurricane Hazel? That was my first one. We were out in the packhouse and they were processing tobacco. That storm came up rather suddenly, and it pinned us in the packhouse.” But the wind can also signify the Holy Spirit, blowing through the dry bones of a spiritless people, bringing them back to life. “Blow, wind, blow,” Bolton says, to a room full of amens.
She’s building to a crescendo now, quoting from the Old Testament. “Ezekiel, one of the major prophets, is visited by God through a vision to give a message to the people of God. That message is: Something has happened to y’all. You have lost your substance. You have lost your purpose. You have lost your direction—so much so that you are as dead as a bag full of bones. And if there is going to be a change, if there is going to be a turnaround, the people of God must heed the word of the Lord.
“And then came the challenge to Ezekiel the prophet, which is the challenge to us today, as we look at AIDS, hypertension, diabetes; as we look at drugs, substance abuse; as we look at high school dropouts; as we look at teenage pregnancy—the challenge for us is, Can these bones live? Can we break the cycle? Can we turn things around? Can we make a difference?”
It’s all connected for Bolton: The preaching she does today about the dry bones; the summer camp she started for Chatham County’s poorest children; all her activism. That’s because Bolton’s faith is the source of her political work; to her, the words of Ezekiel are as relevant in Pittsboro as they were in Babylon. “There’s this extremely strong sense of being led by the Holy Spirit,” says Gary Phillips, a minister and Chatham County commissioner. “She’s the Lord’s instrument. She accepts a discipline of openness to the Holy Spirit that takes on whatever comes.”
SHE DIDN’T EXPECT THE SPIRIT would take her to Pittsboro. Born in Enfield, N.C., north of Rocky Mount, Bolton grew up in a large sharecropping family. By 6, she was working in the fields, picking cotton and shaking peanuts. The house was often filled with outraged talk of ill treatment by the whites for whom the family worked. But Bolton also remembers how her relatives refused to succumb to the stereotype of downtrodden Negroes, heads hung low when talking to whites. “Both of my grandfathers always looked their landowners in the eyes,” she says.
As she grew older, Bolton often had to stay out of school during the harvest seasons. The city kids teased her, but “there were always these wonderful African-American teachers who encouraged me—’don’t give up.’ They understood the dilemma of my parents: ‘How do we help push them to become educated, and at the same time make sure there’s food on the table?'” In 10th grade she contemplated dropping out, but her mother wouldn’t let her. “Don’t do it,” the older woman said. “because I can’t read and write, and I’m so limited.”
At the beginning of her senior year, an English teacher informed her, “Carrie, you need to go to college.” The teacher sent away for an application to Livingstone College in Salisbury and helped the young woman register for the SATs. Bolton qualified for a scholarship, and in the fall of 1966, she went off to a new life.
At Livingstone, influenced by her church-going classmates, Bolton grew deeper in her spirituality. Her own Missionary Baptist background was quite male-centered, but at Livingstone she befriended the daughter of a female minister. In her books, she read about activist preachers like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth; in the news, Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm were emerging as political leaders. Bolton realized her possibilities were less limited than she had imagined back in Enfield.
By 1968, just before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Bolton felt a call to the ministry. So strong was that call that, after earning her master’s in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University, she went to a Baptist seminary in Richmond.
Straight out of seminary, Bolton moved to New York to work for the National Council of Churches. The sharecroppers’ daughter met with local chapters around the country about migrant farmworker issues. But the travel schedule and Northern winters proved too much for Bolton, and she moved back to North Carolina. Almost immediately, she was offered a faculty position at Livingstone, her alma mater.
Thus began 15 years of teaching, social work, volunteer service and ministry. During the brief marriage that produced her two daughters, Bolton lived in Indiana, where she directed a battered women’s shelter. Back in North Carolina, she worked for United Family Services, taught social work, and preached at various churches.
By 1991, Bolton’s life was growing settled. She was raising her two daughters and chairing the sociology department at Livingstone. She had also had been assigned to a 14-member Holiness congregation in Asheboro. In this relatively comfortable existence, she found the strength to do extraordinary things. Her church was in a drug-trafficking neighborhood, and at the end of one Friday night revival, a white man came running into the building, barefoot and shirtless. He was being chased by a black man with a knife. The pursuer’s pupils were dilated, Bolton recalls. “They almost sparkled, and I knew he was high. But God was just with me. All I knew was that I was going to stop that.”
Bolton, not exactly a hulk, jumped between the two. “You can’t do this,” she said to the African-American man. “You can’t do this.” Then she turned her words heavenward, praying, “Help, Lord.” The man began backing up. “This is God’s house,” she told him. “Come to worship.” She turned to a deacon and said, “I want you to take this young white man out the side door.” By then, the black man’s friends had converged on the church, stoked for revenge, but Bolton sped away in her car with the white man, and dropped him off near his home. “Don’t come back to the church unless you’re coming back to worship,” she warned him.
The Asheboro congregation adored Bolton. But the bishop had other plans for her. There was a church outside Pittsboro that needed help. Could she commute almost two hours from her teaching job at Livingstone, at least temporarily? Bolton tried, but it all proved too wearying. She and her daughters would sleep most weeknights at their home near Salisbury, then weekends in a singlewide trailer in Chatham County. Plus there were Wednesday night services at Alston Chapel. “I can’t do this,” Bolton thought. “I have to go back to Salisbury, or I have to make a commitment to this church, because this church needs a pastor, not just a preacher.” It wasn’t enough the share the word of God; Alston Chapel’s parishioners needed someone full-time to tend to their myriad needs.
For most people, the choice would have been easy. Salisbury offered a tenured teaching job, a department chair, a faculty presidency, a network of friends, a three-bedroom home, and the cultural offerings of a small North Carolina city. Pittsboro offered a tiny mobile home, a church in trouble, a meager salary and little else. But in her few months of commuting, she had grown attached to Alston Chapel, particularly to the kids. “I saw the children not just as numbers but as gifts and treasures, as diamonds in the rough, as resources,” she said. “Although I couldn’t see the financial resources, I heard the call: You must go tell it. You must share it.” Bolton talked to her daughters, who, weary of the commute, agreed to uproot. Her youngest, 9-year-old Cindy, told her, “The nicest part will be to sleep in the same bed seven nights a week.”
THE UNITED HOLY CHURCH is a homegrown denomination with a long history of social awareness. Founded in a cottage in Raleigh’s Method neighborhood 113 years ago, it quickly spread throughout central and eastern North Carolina, developing a particularly strong presence in Durham. Like many black churches, the denomination drew its inspiration from American slaves, who praised God with an intensity foreign to their white masters.
From the start, the United Holy Church combined the spiritual with the worldly.
“Born as it was in the crucible of slavery, its life was indelibly stamped by the marks of suffering and oppression,” writes William Turner Jr., an associate professor at Duke Divinity School. The United Holy Church and similar denominations, he says, intermix “the Spirit’s presence” with “an intense passion for freedom.”
Or, in simpler terms, preaching and pastoring. Celebrating God’s word while simultaneously making sure God’s children don’t go untended in their day-to-day lives.
For Bolton, the pastoring started on the most basic level. Once she moved to Pittsboro, she began asking around, “What do people do with their children in the summer?” She flinched at the responses: They stay with relatives. They watch television. Sometimes they play in the yard. “I hate the notion of TV baby-sitting,” she says—so in the summer of ’92, she began a summer camp at the church, supported by United Way funds, individual donations and volunteer labor. “We were flying by the seat of our pants,” she says, but the camp has grown, and now provides a full recreation program for 125 children whose parents could ordinarily not afford it. “There was never any talk of resources, just need,” says Gary Phillips, the county commissioner.
Bolton also discovered that quality day care was lacking for the county’s lowest paid workers, who often lost their jobs at hosiery mills and chicken slaughterhouses when they stayed home to care for their kids. That led her to open the Mary Neal Child Care Center, a simple, vinyl-sided building at the end of a long gravel driveway just a few doors down from the church. With little money to hire staff, Bolton signed on as the unpaid director, and she has been serving in that role for three years. She arrives at the center at 5:45 every morning, 10 minutes before the first kid shows up, and spends much of her days in a small office plastered with photos of children. While the children sing, play on the swings, and eat meals prepared by 86-year-old Rena Alston, one of eight workers, Bolton juggles the paperwork required for government meal reimbursement and the like. She also tries to pull in as much grant money as possible, so that no child will be turned away for lack of funds.
It didn’t take long in the day-care business for Bolton to realize she needed to pastor in a more expansive way—by fighting for political changes that reflected her own spiritual values. “I started bumping up against these barriers that frustrate one who is trying to do good by community and by children,” she says. For one thing, she noticed that “child-care workers in Chatham County get paid less than chicken catchers at the chicken plants.” (She quickly adds that both groups deserve better pay.) Even with minimum-wage labor, day care is too expensive for many people who work low-paying jobs.
Bolton started expanding her vision, by drawing the links between children’s and other issues. Whether it was inadequate child care, industrial hog farms in rural communities, or CP&L’s plans to store used fuel rods at the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant, there was a common theme: monied interests getting their way at the expense of poor communities like her own. The reason? Folks like herself could never raise the money to run for political office. Working with other local activists, she came to realize that the campaign-finance system needed overhauling if the issues she cared about, like child welfare, were ever to be taken seriously.
Working with Democracy South, Bolton began speaking out on campaign-finance reform. At one meeting of a state legislative commission, she spoke softly at first, then let her voice build as in a Holiness sermon. “I’m energetic. I’m smart. I’m intelligent,” she said. “But a snowball would stand a better chance surviving in Hell that I would running for political office in this country. Because I have no money. My family has no money. My friends do not have money.” As if checking her heart rate, Bolton lifted her left wrist with her right hand. “People can feel my pulse,” she continued. “People who are working, and working hard, can feel what I feel. But I can’t tell them because I don’t know how to get the spotlight to tell them. Because I have no money.”
Bolton’s testimony echoed well beyond the hearing room. Minnesota’s Paul Wellstone quoted it on the Senate floor. Journalist Bill Moyers quoted it, too, adding, “Anyone who believes Carrie Bolton’s cry isn’t coming from the soul of democracy is living in a fool’s paradise—a rich fool’s paradise.”
Bolton continued speaking out. When CP&L asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in December for permission to store spent uranium fuel from its plants in North and South Carolina at Shearon Harris, she joined environmental activists in protest. “Is it fair if you live near the plant and know that an accident will wipe out your entire community?” she asked the Raleigh News and Observer. “We’re talking about human lives.” When the Chatham County commissioners balked at paying $300 in legal fees to petition the Nuclear Regulatory Agency for more local oversight, Bolton passed the hat among her friends and raised $333—money the commissioners refused.
When two men were killed at a Pittsboro crack house last November, Bolton helped organize a march and candlelight vigil. “We are tired of drugs infesting our families and our community,” she told a crowd of more than 200. “People who feed into that are murderers.”
And when a Chatham County schoolteacher was let go from her job—under what some activists consider racist circumstances—Bolton asked the district superintendent to produce receipts showing how much money had been spent on lawyers to fire an African-American single mother. When three weeks passed and she received no documents, she demanded that the superintendent turn them over by 5 p.m.—or write a letter explaining why he wouldn’t. She got the receipts.
Phillips says he has seen Bolton dig in her heels at public meetings, letting her anger show as if she were on the pulpit on a Sunday morning. “She’ll walk out to the podium and she will demand justice in an uncompromising way, over and over again,” he says. Quietly, some progressives wonder whether her strident tone is helping or hurting matters. “Sometimes they’ll get angry,” Phillips says. “Sometimes they’ll get frightened. Sometimes people will call me and say, ‘Why did she do that?'”
The people Bolton has criticized publicly won’t criticize her back, at least not for publication. And her supporters say her occasionally militant tone serves a greater good. “There are times it may make her less effective,” says Phillips. “But that’s overpowered by the respect she gains from those people who don’t feel like have a voice.”
SOMETIMES, THE MOST PASSIONATE ACTIVISTS face the danger of losing their impact. They become predictable and shrill; people see them coming and flee. But Bolton has managed to win the esteem of a wide range of people, even those she criticizes. “I very much respect anyone who follows their passions, and she is clearly doing that,” says John Caves, manager of regulatory affairs for CP&L.
Part of the reason is that Bolton combines words with action—again, preaching and pastoring. It’s hard to fault someone for being overly polemical when she spends countless hours running a church, summer camp and day-care center. But the other reason is that not all of Bolton’s words are designed to rabblerouse; many are meant to heal, to comfort or to offer alternative approaches to problems.
At one point, a local poultry plant was about to be sold, and the predominantly Latino workforce was worried about what would happen to their pay and benefits. The issue came to the attention of the 6-year-old Chatham County Political Reform Group, of which Bolton is a member. “Many of us—many of the African Americans—were really fired up about how the workers should go in and demand that the white bosses give them fair treatment,” says Margie Ellison. “Everybody was on fire about placing demands on these white folks who were such terrible people.” There was talk about calling in the media, about embarrassing the company into treating its employees right.
“I remember Carrie saying, ‘This is not the way to address anybody. If you really want to empower these workers, you can’t go in with empty demands. You’ve got to be able to go to the table and sit and talk.’ We thought that was crazy. But Carrie said the workers had to sit down with the plant managers people-to-people. Don’t go in as victims. Come in as people who have a lot to offer. If you see yourself as people with nothing to offer, how do you expect the bosses will see you? She said, ‘This is not about raising hell. This is about bringing your dignity to the table with you.’ We had not even considered that.”
Another time, the Political Reform Group was discussing violence in Chatham’s school—and the next thing anyone knew, Bolton and another member were holding a series of charettes throughout the county, designed to come up with solutions to the problem.
And once, Bolton walked into a Political Reform Group meeting looking unusually drained. She had buried a member of her congregation that week, committed another to a psychiatric ward, and was pulling inhumane hours at the child-care center. But instead of listing her troubles, she recited the last three verses of Habakkuk:
Although the fig tree shall not blossom,
Neither shall fruit be in the vines;
The labor of the olive shall fail,
And the fields shall yield no meat;
The flock shall be cut off from the fold,
And there shall be no herd in the stalls;
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord….
He will make mine feet like hinds’ feet,
And he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
Her fellow activists got Bolton’s message. The Biblical passage was a reminder to carry on, even when the results seem far off. Says Gary Phillips, “All of us understood exactly.”
THIS IS HOW CARRIE BOLTON SPENT one unusually stressful week last month:
She woke up every weekday at 5 in order to arrive at the Mary Neal Child Care Center before sunrise. At 7:30 most mornings, her daughter and goddaughter (who lives with her) came by the center for conversation and prayer before they headed off to high school. She ran the center without the assistance of her lead staff member, who was home with the flu.
Throughout the week, she tended to a church member, whose son had recently died and who was now undergoing lung surgery at UNC Hospitals. On Wednesday, she stayed with the woman through the night, catching occasional catnaps in a chair. At the hospital, she reviewed grant proposals submitted to the Triangle Community Foundation. At 4:20 a.m., she drove home from Chapel Hill, took a shower, and went straight to the day-care center. She slept an hour in her office chair, then went to a board meeting of Joint Orange-Chatham Community Action.
Friday, she waited all day for the church member’s discharge, then picked her up and drove her home. She arrived at her own house at 11:15 p.m.
Saturday morning, Bolton slept two hours later than usual, till 7, then prepared a Black History Month speech, which she gave at a Goldsboro church later that day. At night, she typed up the church bulletin announcements, washed clothes and returned a half-dozen phone calls. She got a full night’s sleep that night, drove to the day-care center in the morning, photocopied the bulletin, arrived in time for Sunday school, preached a two-hour service, then came home and read 25 more grant proposals.
“I feel exhausted a lot of the time,” she says.
Worse, she sometimes feels angry, frustrated, overwhelmed. “Every day of my life, I awaken with my first thought being, ‘Lord, help me today to make a difference as best I can without despairing, because it just seems like there is too much to do, and too little with which to do it.'” She fantasizes about taking a break from her work, maybe even spending a summer reading books. But there’s the day camp to run in addition to all her other responsibilities. “If I don’t pull the summer camp together, who will?” she asks.
Her friends try to protect her. They drive her places. They feed her. They occasionally open the day-care center so she can sleep late. “When we see she’s close to the edge, we say to her, ‘You’ve got to slow down. You’re doing too much,’ ” says Barbara Lorie, a member of both the Political Reform Group and Bolton’s church. They try to pull her away from her work, as Margie Ellison did when she bought a pair of tickets to see Sweet Honey in the Rock in Chapel Hill. “We were ready to go,” Ellison recalls. “And then she told me, ‘Margie, the church has a business meeting tonight. I have to be there.’ ”
But now, Bolton is starting to realize that has to change—that she’s become a slave to her own activism, and now she must work for her own emancipation. She’s been thinking about how to raise the money to hire a paid director for the day-care center, so she doesn’t have to work two full-time jobs. She’s been learning how to say no—four times in one recent week. She’s trying to learn that stretching herself thin helps no one. “Because I’m doing so much all the time, I have to struggle with being inadequate,” Bolton says. “You can’t possibly do so much and do it well. Part of my goal is to try not to continue being some sort of superwoman, but to do things I believe have to be done, and not become a fatality of the mission I believe I’m on.”
But no one expects Carrie Bolton to slow down much. When she runs too ragged, she thinks of her great-grandfather Henry Hunter, of how hard he pushed himself during his freedom walk. Fighting for justice, caring for children, and serving the Lord might be exhausting, but Bolton is banking on the fact that, as with her great-grandfather, her work will ultimately replenish her.
“The thing that gives me hope is that he came home,” she says. “Something he did along the way preserved him so he could come home.”