January 11, 2006

Extreme Makeover: Heaven Edition

1501 page31 capK, I admit it. Every time I watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on television, I cry.

Stories are shown of homes destroyed by hurricanes, fire, and pestilence. Mothers and children left by fathers who?ve died--or worse, who are alive but gone anyway. Orphans holding on by a thread. Four people sleeping in one room. Another family living in a tent.

In one episode a single mother of three works out of her house to help find missing children. She?s helped to find more than a hundred of them. She?s driven to search for these precious missing because she knows how it feels. Ten years earlier her own daughter was kidnapped at the age of 6, and she?s been looking for her ever since.

I?m glad that some very clever people have figured out how to have fun, do good, make money, and entertain the rest of us by building a new home in seven days for a destitute family while filming the whole thing. As a bonus, they send the family away for a week?s vacation during the house-raising.

1501 page31The suspense builds as the time nears for the family to return. The design team?s big travel bus is placed strategically so that the family can?t see the new house until the host yells, ?Move that bus!? The raw emotion erupts as the bus driver pulls away, and the family sees the house for the first time.

In the episode I just watched, the dad (who?s been out of work because of seizures) drops to his knees when he sees the dream house that replaces what his family has been living in, before ABC Television invaded their lives for fun and profit. Still on his knees, he?s thankful even before he sees the inside of the house.

And the house never disappoints. The waves of emotion just keep coming, thanks to good editing and over-the-top household features making the house not just a house. It?s a, a--mansion!

It?s not uncommon for one or more members of the family to say, ?That?s just what I wanted. How did they know?? On really great shows, the contractor of the week comes by and announces that the mortgage is paid in full. Wow. Got me again.

It?s probably appropriate to acknowledge at this point that any one of us who?s sleeping with any kind of roof over our head is better off than the vast majority of the world?s population.

So, yes, I greatly appreciate my house. But I admit I?m less involved with it than I should be. The front door is long past needing touch-up paint. And don?t even try to walk into the walk-in closet in the hallway.

I wouldn?t mind it if some creative decorator with money and imagination would stop by for a minor brushup. (OK, a major brushup.) It?s fun to think about replacing the hand-me-down furniture and having someone with taste accessorize the place. Without the national television exposure, that is.

But what I?m really looking forward to is the ?big reveal? in the sky, when family by family we all get to shout at some angelic bus driver to ?Move that bus!? And we see the first glimpses of our heavenly mansions that are prepared just for us.

I can hardly wait to see what decor will be selected just for me. We?ll all be wandering through the heavenly mansions, saying, ?Wow! How did He know that?s what I wanted??

The unemployed man won?t be having seizures anymore, and he?ll have a job in the praise choir. The searching mother will be reunited with her missing child. As for her job of looking for missing children--well, she?ll finally be unemployed for good.

Then the General Contractor of heaven will come by just to smile and hand out hankies for wiping away all tears.Oh, yeah. One more big thing.

The mortgage is already paid.

Sheree Parris Nudd is a vice president at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Maryland.