In two months I will be sitting in front of a television reliving one of the best experiences of my life. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, on HGTV, will once again grace the screens of millions of homes. It will showcase the best of what society has to offer others: human kindness. That was one of the most profound lessons I have ever had an opportunity to relearn…and one I will never forget again. Extreme taught me this and other really valuable lessons during my short but extremely impactful time taping the show.
The power of human connection
Many people have asked me how we erected so many homes in a span of only five days. My answer is simple: these homes were built with helping hands and love. That’s it. There’s the magic formula, and it isn’t magic at all. We only needed intentionality, a desire to serve, a belief in the power of many and a desire to do more together. It’s such a powerful thing that I had never experienced before this way.
Listen, I know construction. I’ve seen remarkable buildings erected from the ground up. Witnessing that in itself is astounding. But Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is so much bigger than construction. We were given the ability to create memorable, heartfelt spaces for people and families who had given their all to others. We designers like to create and leave something physical in the world that we did with our own hands. With Extreme, I not only left my mark on the world; I left my mark on the hearts, lives and memories of some remarkable families. I learned from my experience on Extreme that all of the beautiful things in this world stem from the human connection. It’s such a special thing.
The power of unity
It’s one thing to know that a home can be completely built in five days. But watching people come together and actually do it on Extreme? Unreal. It honestly reaffirmed my faith in people. It showed me that complete strangers could genuinely and sincerely unite for a common cause! In the cultural climate we live in presently, I wasn’t so sure that could ever happen.
I’m not proud to say this, but over the past few years, I have not felt confident about our society being able to genuinely engage and support others. That stems from some extremely negative experiences I have endured as a single mother. I’m sure others have their hurts, traumas and triggers. We all do. They can leave us jaded oftentimes when it comes to seeing the good in people. Faith in others wanes when they let you down consistently. It’s why I keep my head down, maintain a tight-knit tribe and invest in my employees.
How shocked was I when Extreme Makeover: Home Edition showed me on an emotional level that the human condition is alive and well! The show illuminated the beauty of a multitude of strangers doing powerful things as a collective. It wouldn’t have mattered if we had double or triple the volunteers. No matter the number, everyone was there for a higher purpose: faith in each other. Our superpower as humans is our empathy, and the Extreme crowds had it on full display. Though there were tragic and heart-wrenching stories, the moments of perseverance and watching volunteers help the families truly tugged at my heart.
The power of small gestures
Have you ever been to a concert, where the star singer is owning the stage? That was Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for me. I could feel what it might be like to be a rock-star each and every day. However, I wasn’t the rock star. Darren, Carrie, and Jesse weren’t, either. The rock star was a single dad who lost his wife and is raising his kids by himself. Other rock stars were immigrants who came to America as refugees. These were the true heroes. I hope to see us turn more daily heroes into rock stars. The dad doing his daughter’s hair on IG, the family caring for the homeless, the volunteers supporting veterans. We love them because they do simple gestures that make a big difference in the lives of others. That’s so priceless.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition re-taught me not to forget those moments in my life. It made me see, for the first time in a long while, that people really are awesome, just because they care. That third-grade teacher who made you feel really intelligent for giving the right answer. Or the coach who told you you could do it and never gave up on you. Those are the little things that make colossal differences in our lives. In this season of giving, that’s such a simple but powerful gift we can give to each other.
The power of giving
At the end of each day when I walked away from Extreme, I missed our crew. I missed the crowds of people. We were connected to a purpose that resonated deeply within our souls. I want to nurture that connection throughout my life—away from the cameras, away from the crowds. I want other awesome people to experience how powerful that connection was.
We were open with each other. Being vulnerable made us lean into each other more. We heard and felt these amazing stories you will get to know when the show airs. They’re AMAZING! The way the family members opened their hearts to me, told me their struggles, held my hand, and wept over lost relatives…it was all so powerful. They are moments I will always cherish.
Before Extreme, I had forgotten how incredibly wonderful people in our society can be. I’m no longer there. During and after taping, I was reminded that the best things—the most powerful things—in life are small, and they don’t cost a thing. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition taught me to believe that again.