Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Minnesota Extreme Home Makeover & Community Spirit

Just recently, I personally witnessed an amazing and wonderful life-changing experience for a very deserving family here in our Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota community. (Minneapolis-St. Paul is also known as the Twin Cities to those of you reading this blog outside the United States)

The family had been recently devastated with tragedy involving the murder of a family member.

Husband and wife Erik and Vicki Swenson are both schoolteachers, Vicki’s sister was murdered last year by an ex-boyfriend. Erick and Vicki took in the four children of Vicki’s sister even though they already had three children of their own and are expecting a fourth child soon. The sister's childrens' father had also died - in an automobile accident - and so the children were left parentless.

The Swenson’s home became a tight squeeze for this now very large family, and students at Hopkins High School, where the Swensons teach, decided to make a video and nominate the Swensons for an “Extreme Home Makeover.”

On August 21, 2007, the Swensons, who reside in Minnetonka, Minnesota, (a suburb of the Twin Cities), got a surprise when Ty Pennington pulled up in the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition bus in front of their home and told them they had been selected for this makeover. In fact, it was going to be the biggest home makeover in the history of the television series, which has been on the air since 2003.

The popular ABC Extreme Makeover: Home Edition television program, viewed by millions of people, has left a legacy of greatly improved and even entirely new homes for U.S. families who have experienced hardship.

One of the most wonderful things about the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition program is that the local communities become very involved with the process. Countless volunteers as well as donations of materials and goods make these home makeovers truly remarkable and infused with community cooperation and community spirit.

I had no idea a huge, million dollar home could be built almost overnight.

But I saw it happen with my own eyes.

The bus pulled up on a Tuesday. The Swenson family was shipped off to Disney World for a week and then the work began.

The house was torn down by Thursday. A new foundation was then laid and by Saturday, when I visited the site, the house was pretty much up. There were 200 contractors and subcontractors working on the house. There were large trucks and trailers everywhere. Small crowds of people cheered the workers on.

This monumental effort was quite a site to behold.

Two days later, on Monday, the furniture was being moved into the house and I realized I had witnessed the complete building of a beautiful 5,600 square foot house in 99 hours. That is a little over four days.

I saw the house at several stages during the building process. The weather was beautiful and cooperated with the effort. There was so much joy and such high energy and I feel like this home has anchored a special energy of community spirit here in the Twin Cities.

Obviously, Erik and Vicki Swenson love children. They choose to be teachers and parents. They generously opened their home and hearts to children in their extended family.

As a former psychotherapist, I was trained in the school of psychology developed by Dr. Alfred Adler. He viewed human beings as being confronted with life tasks that involve communal life. He said that psychologically healthy people have
"Gemeinschaftsgefuhl". This is a German word that means "community feeling".

Erik and Vicki Swenson demonstrated community feeling by taking in four orphaned children.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul volunteers and donors demonstrated community feeling by helping to make this amazing home makeover.

You can view the new house and its makeover on November 25 on ABC television.

Extreme Home Makeover Links

Sorrow to Joy in the Extreme

TJB Homes Photos of Makeover

The Swenson-Lee Family

TJB Homes Gives Extreme Makeover

from Wikipedia: "gemeinschaftsgefuhl" -- a profound sense of caring for others and a desire to improve the world



Adler had found his empirical and clearly definable solution in gemeinschaftsgefuhl - people drove towards healthy social interaction. He defined gemeinschaftsgefuhl in german alone - so English translations are difficult. However, we can recognize this concept as:

a profound caring about others
a positive feeling towards others
the desire to improve the world
healthy social interaction

Adler was optimistic, and felt everyone was born with this drive. (See Fromm) But, unlike Rousseau and Fromm, Adler felt that each of us had to work hard to foster it.