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What I Watched Last Night

Okay, I'll admit that I'm one of the suckers whose been drawn into the inevitably tear-jerking, feel-good, pay-it-forward mojo of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I watch it reasonably religiously, probably because (a) it's cathartic and (b) it gives me hope that some day something really cool, like a bus full of people with lots of money and good intentions, will pull up at my door, send me on vacation, and build me a stunning home while I'm away. Ty and his gang are living proof that such things happen.

Unfortunately, it's not going to happen to me. At least not this season. See, this year, they're doing it a little differently, and they're doing one home in each state. And on Sunday night, well, they were right here in Chicago, in Lawndale, "giving a family a second chance."

Seems Geno Noyola and his wife Melinda finally saved up enough to move out of Geno's grandma's attic (with their six kids) and into a new house, only they got conned and the house was a disaster. So there they were, stuck back in the roach-infested attic, Geno and Melinda sleeping on the bare floor, when the Design Team rolled up to make their dreams come true.

Now, most of the time, the folks they come to help just had a hard break. Their house burned down, a parent died, a kid got a disease. But Geno Noyola's story was a bit different, and I found myself having trouble reaching for the Kleenex.

He'd been a troublemaker since when his kids were younger, breaking into cars and stealing stereos, and he'd been charged with theft and burglary. Now he's turned his life around and mentors other kids, coaches football, and is a community leader. And he wants the best for his kids, blah, blah, blah . . .

I get it that it's not this guy's kids' fault that he was a jackass when he was younger. But complaining that you've been let go from jobs because of your record? Well, bub, welcome to life. If grocery stores decide not to hire people based on their bad credit, it's certainly not inconceivable that a construction company wouldn't want a guy who used to steal stuff on site.

It's not that I don't believe in second chances. I do. I don't think a decent guy who's turned his life around should be judged on his past mistakes. But it happens. And while these parents were undeniably good, making sure their kids got violin lessons at the Merit School of Music (kudos to them, by the way), and grew up with a good foundation, well, they just didn't quite capture my heart.

It's the people who take in numerous troubled foster kids and teach them how to work with wild horses but need help fixing up the ranch so they can take in more kids, or the guy whose wife died at 27, leaving him with three little girls under five and a house that's falling apart, that get me.

And maybe it was just too close to home. I mean, there are people all around me whose houses are in extreme disrepair, who need the very basics, who are living with relatives, who are really screwed. So what made this family so different that they got the wake-up call and the trip to Disney? I guess making your video plea really does work. I'm reasonably sure plenty of people all across Illinois send in requests to the show, and I guess the Noyolas grabbed the producers in a way no one else did. But, though I wish them luck, they didn't grab me.

Oh well, new state next week. Bring on the Kleenex!

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Editor's Note: A reader shares that Geno Noyola died on October 27, 2013. Our condolences.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on January 15, 2007


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