Extreme Makeover: Heart Edition

I am a sucker for reality TV. Seriously, if someone is weighing himself or trying to win a quick-fire cooking challenge or ripping down a house on TV, I’m there.

But I’ve got to tell you, working at Compassion spoils you for pop culture. Suddenly everything is in perspective.

Before starting my job here, I used to love Extreme Home Makeover. I loved seeing the crazy kitchens, the creative design and the happy people. I would cry with them when they yelled with Ty, “Bus driver, move that bus!” And I still do love the heart of helping and generosity it is spreading.

But since being daily faced with the realities of the majority world, I can’t help but be distressed by our sometimes-trend toward bigger is better and more is more attitude. We seem to be in a never-ending game of one-upmanship.

I don’t personally think there’s anything inherently wrong or sinful about a big house. What is dangerous is the subtle message we are ingesting that if our homes aren’t big, if they aren’t new, if they aren’t decked with the trendiest design, it’s a reason to shake our heads shamefully. We can begin to look around at what we have and think, “This isn’t that great” when we compare it to the over-the-top luxury we see.

It’s sad. We have so much! Think of Joshua’s home in Indonesia.

boy standing in doorway of building

Home security in Indonesia.

old lock on wall

Vanity dresser.

red comb on ledge

Mood lighting.

lamp hanging on wall

Kitchen island.

single cooking burner with pot

He and his family all sleep together in one big room, his father with the two older brothers on a mattress by the door, and the mother with the younger siblings on a bed.

His favorite part of his home is the mattress. It gets lots of light from the front door. But he wishes the roof was a bit better so he wouldn’t get rained on at night.

His mom wishes the electricity worked more often — they share it between eight families.

When asked what he thinks about living here, Joshua said, “I like it here because I have so many friends.”

The sweet heart of a child.

I don’t propose we all move to open-air shacks and share one bedroom between six people. But I do propose looking around at what we have! Appreciate it. See it for what it really is.

How sad it is when we “tsk” at the great blessings we have as not enough. When we complain about this or that little detail of it. (I’m speaking from personal experience. I HATE my ugly old kelly green bathroom and can look beyond the beauty of my home to that one seeming blight.)

What may really need an extreme makeover is not necessarily our homes, but our hearts.

Photos by Ben Adams

2 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Lisa Miles March 25, 2010

    Regarding conspicuous consumption — $38,000 handbags, $500,000 vehicles, $2000 pairs of pants, etc., etc. I find it incredibly hard to understand those choices.

    I think of that final scene in Schindler’s List – that moment when it really sunk in for Oskar Schindler what had been saved and what had been lost in terms of human lives.

    He looked at his car and said, why did I keep this car? The money I could have gotten for this car would have saved 10 lives. He ripped a piece of gold jewelry off his coat and threw it on the ground and said, in exchange for this, I could have saved two more people.

    He wept for what he could have done. He grieved over the missed opportunities to help others. He really understand in that moment that it wasn’t the car or the gold jewelry that mattered — it was the lives of those around him.

    There are people today in equally desperate circumstances. Children whose lives would be saved by our choices. In a way, we are the Oskar Schindlers of today. What will we do with the resources we’ve been given?

    I think if someone really understood the amount of human suffering that could be alleviated with $38,000, they would choose that over a handbag.

  2. David Soister March 18, 2010

    Amber: I really enjoy reading your writing on this blog. You have such a great, honest way of sharing the Truth (capital “T”) of the day to day realities of children in poverty. Thank you for the insightful, heart-felt entries!

    Many blessings,
    David Soister
    Staff Chaplain
    Compasssion International

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