Have you seen it? Secret Millionaire on ABC? I like it. Perhaps Hollywood'ish. Perhaps planned. Perhaps well crafted for emotional moments. But I still like it.
The other night when we were on the Oregon Coast, I pinned LoverBoy down and made him watch it. It was the story of Gary and Diane Heavin -- the Texas owners of Curves a workout facility for women. They live in the middle of nowhere Texas....on acres and acres of land. Their property is gated. And the gate is one mile from their home. That means that their driveway is one mile long! It keeps them isolated in a beautiful, quiet country estate. They really do seem like nice people. Christians. The kind of Christians that pray for things, before meals, for blessings....that sort of thing.
So, if you don't know already, the show sends millionaires to an unknown location in the US. They are provided a roof over their heads...and that's about it. Seriously, it's a very trashy home. Dirty, unkempt, you and I would not live there. It is typically inner city. Dangerous areas. All poor folks. Children who are not cared for. Families who struggle. They receive $6 or so dollars per day to live on. And that means Top Ramen for every meal along with maybe white bread with peanut butter. They drive a beat up car....one that they would never have back at their well-to-do ranches. And then they are left on their own. To find a group or two or three to help out for a week. They are "Secret Millionaires" going under cover as helpful volunteers who are just trying to see what they can do to assist the local neighborhood. Each show is different, each organization that they discover is different.
On this particular episode, Gary and Diane are sent to Houston's Third Ward. Honestly, it has to be one of the US's worst places to live with some of the nation's worst crime and poverty. They found three organizations to help out -- No More Victims a group that assists children and family members of incarcerated parents. Their goal is to stop the cycle of victimization....and keep the children from following the same steps that their parents do. Extremely powerful footage of young children describing their home situations and what they do to keep their heads above water. The second group that Gary and Diane helped was the Sean Ashley House....a home dedicated to helping adults and children living with disabilities, primarily autism. And the third organization that they discovered was Lazarus House....an amazing group of folks dedicated to helping people with the devastating cycle of malnutrition and muscle wasting that accompanies numerous chronic illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDS, lupus, and muscular dystrophy. Gary and Diane are like fish out of water throughout this whole episode. Gary, especially, struggles to find his way. A way to relate. A path to draw commonality. And the Lazarus House is filled with gay people, those with HIV. It is obviously the very first time that either Gary or Diane have ever met not only a gay person....but a person with HIV. They are caught off guard. And I loved it. I loved how they did their best to help out, to relate, to kick in and help. They leave each of the groups with many many thousands of dollars at the end of the week. They come clean with those who they have rubbed shoulders with for the week about who they really are and what they are there to do. It is one of those moments.
In spite of having preconceived ideas about Gary and Diane from my many years inside the four confining walls of many churches, I am very proud of the way that they honestly tried to do their best. My favorite parts of the show were when Diane said to a young blind HIV-positive lady at the Lazarus House that "I've never met anyone with HIV before." And when Gary went outside with a clearly gay man and painted. Brush stroke after brush stroke on a house that needed it badly. A Christian millionaire with the most common of HIV-positive homosexuals. To say it brought tears would be putting it mildly. And the third thing I liked hearing was about that gate. That big huge giant gate one mile from Gary and Diane's front door. The gate that keeps them blocked off from the rest of the world. And in the very last line of the show Gary talks about that gate -- and how it needs to come down. How there is clearly a world outside of his ranch that needs his help. And there is. We probably all have one of those gates in our lives.