Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Gospel According to Ty

My favorite TV show, bar none, is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It is actually a spin off of the flesh-and-blood, chop-shop, reality-show called simply, Extreme Makeover. You remember that show right, when people would go get dangerous surgeries in order to feel better about themselves? Well, that show has taken a back seat to the Home Edition, which is soaring.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (EM:HE) is the show in which a family or person who has had some kind of challenge (disability, disease, tragedy, lost everything, etc) and needs some significant help with their home gets help from the EM:HE crew. In the span of one week, they either completely remodel or rebuild the home the person lived in while that person is on vacation in Maui or some cool place like that.

Sure, it’s a huge Sears commercial. OK, the main guy, Ty Pennington, can get a little annoying with his bullhorn screaming and worrisome rants about, “Are we going to finish on time?” (like it really matters - who’s going to get all worked up about an extra day in Maui?). And, yes, I agree that it is unrealistic that every female on the design team is, well, totally hot. But there is something to this show.

I knew that I liked the show from day one, but it was only after reading Larry James’ Blog ( that I realized something a little deeper and even spiritual about the show. Larry is a minister in urban Dallas. He intentionally works among the poor and needy. He knows (not just meets, knows) a lot of homeless people. A recent blog post of his mentioned a progressive, new, and innovative program for homeless people: Give them homes. Go figure. Homes for the homeless. Novel idea. Minimal restrictions and maximum benefits. The rates of success of just giving homeless people a place to live versus loading them up with requirements is eye-opening. And it actually costs less to give them a place to stay than it does to load them up with requirements.

My point is this: there is something to the concept of home that is more than merely a functional place to lay your head. The homeless people Larry James serves and the struggling people Ty Pennington serves end up with one thing in common: a home. There is security in having a sense of place. A place to call your own, a place not intruded by bugs, slime, and mold; a place where you belong more than anyone else, a place of constant familiarity, a place of peace, a place of rest. Bottom line: home is not just a house, there is something deeply necessary and even spiritual about it.

When you watch Ty interact with the families he helps, you know he is making their dreams come true. He’s just giving them a home with nothing required in return. Yeah, he’s probably making some decent coin from the show, but there is no obligation on the part of the recipient. There are no contingencies. “We’ll remodel your house if you promise to…” Nope. They just get the house. Ty leaves of wake of goodness behind him. When Ty shows up, it is good news.

And isn’t that what the word gospel means, “good news?” The good that Ty is doing for people is what the religious should be doing, being good news. He’s not preaching at them. Heck, he doesn’t have to. His works are a sermon. He requires nothing of them. He just gives them something worth remembering. No one cringes when Ty shows up at their door, and he is actually screaming at them with a bullhorn.

The gospel according to Ty is to give without expectation of repayment, to make people’s dreams come true by meeting their great need with your great talent, and to leave a wake of goodness behind.

I’m not sure if Ty is a religious guy, but his Sunday evening sermons sure are great.


jettybetty said...

This is the only TV show I watch regularly--and every time I think "this is what 'church' people should be doing". When communities come together, lots can be done in a very short time. Ty is preaching to more Americans than Christians are.

David U said...

"I was homeless, and you built me a home".

Thanks for the great post!


TCS said...

That will preach! Man, that is what people should say when they see us coming. "Here comes some good news" and the wake we leave spreading out behind as we leave should be the same. I have never watched this show but it was recommended to me recently. Oh how I wish we would give not expecting anything in return. It is all to often a carrot to lure them in.

DJG said...

What TCS said!!! Let's be those people

germinsky said...

My wife's an EM:HE addict which in turn makes me an EM:HE addict it's GREAT! I shed my first tears a couple episodes ago when they built those two houses for the dude that got shot then gave him a wedding!! Anyways the end of your post just nails it ("his Sunday evening sermons sure are great.")Thanks for the "obvious" insight that sometimes must be revealed to me through the medium of BLOG- your posts rock - thanks for the encouraging e-mail a couple days ago, check out my blog I just fired her up at