Carrum resident James ‘The Hammer’ Harding speaks to Kate Sears about his autobiography, Hard Cuddles, and how he turned his back on a life of drugs, violence and crime to become a mentor, public speaker and devoted dad.
What has your mentoring experience been like?
It’s tremendously humbling to be part of another human’s healing process. There is a huge amount of vulnerability involved in sharing emotional challenges with another human, so to be able to create a comfortable space for a client to share those experiences with me is amazing. Whatever is shareable is bearable, so with my mentoring process I removed all judgement a long time ago and have a tendency to look at a situation from the eyes of the person telling the story. Active listening with compassion and empathy is incredibly healing.
Was your book challenging or cathartic to write?
A little of both. I knew instinctively when I was writing that I was healing myself and I could feel a massive amount of residual emotion being cleared as I penned down every one of the 121,000 words in the book. Situations, stories and certain people would consistently run in my head very much like I wasn’t able to let them go. There was a real sense of releasing the pain, so certain chapters in the book had me in tears as I wrote them and I felt like I was being torn apart. I remember how hard certain moments were for me and I can’t help but feel happiness at the mountain I have climbed to get here. The book was actually written for me, no one else. I had no ambition of letting it go public. My sister snuck on to the computer and read a few chapters and demanded I send it to a publisher.
Tell us about your public speaking?
I love speaking publicly. I have spoken and held workshops at various councils, community centres and large organisations. Corrections Victoria has recently contacted me to start organising a program for the inmates in prison. That particular presentation is something I hold very close to my heart. If things had’ve gone a bit differently for me I could very well have been listening to the presentations as one of the inmates. Ultimately, public speaking is a beautiful way of connecting with other human beings. It’s a massive energy transference. I give so much of myself and in turn receive a lot of energy back from the audience. It’s a very special feeling.
PULL QUOTE: Ultimately, public speaking is a beautiful way of connecting with other human beings. It’s a massive energy transference. I give so much of myself and in turn receive a lot of energy back from the audience. It’s a very special feeling
What do your love about our community?
I volunteer at the Pantry 5000 and the Bonbeach Football Club as a welfare manager under the tutelage of magnificent Matty Lowe, the president and director of Lowe Constructions. Specifically, during my time of darkness I promised myself that when I found some balance and peace I would do everything in my powers to help other people. To me it makes a lot of sense to raise all of my children in a fashion that allows them to see that what their father does is normal, so in a lot of ways raising five caring and community-minded children is my greatest legacy and contribution to the universe.