I was on an Oprah Winfrey Network Reality TV Show – True Story!

And just like that, our lives were changed forever…

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 10.33.45 AM

The Oprah Winfrey Network’s Second Season of Million Dollar Neighbourhood.

None of us could have anticipated just how hard it would end up being. Imagine the chaos generated in putting 100 families from different backgrounds, races, economic status, sexual orientations, and opinions together for ten weeks. The expectation was that this composition of families would all struggle together to achieve weekly personal, financial and community goals.154880_10151350555869830_75448918_n

For ten weeks we were given seemingly impossible challenges and told they had to be completed within six days. Simultaneously, each family was required to increase their personal ‘Net Worth’ by $1000 per week.

Community and personal challenges included such crazy schemes as:

·     A 100 family yard sale;

·     A food sales competition with two celebrity chefs;

·     Surrendering your vehicle;

·     Finding hidden money in piggy banks, re-negotiating mortgage rates;

·     Cancelling credit cards and non-essential services;

·     Selling valuables;

·     Obtaining overtime at work, or a new job, or an upgraded job;

·     Reuniting a family separated for almost two decades from the other side of the planet;

·     Improving the status and value of your home;

·     Surrendering your vices…

In six days.

Exceptionally quick decisions had to be made regarding venues, the items/services involved, donations, local government approvals, appropriate advertising/promotions, and most tricky – the agreement of 100 families.  These challenges were definitely not easy.

declutterWeek

Due to the limited amount of time involved each week, this group was forced into an artificial environment where decisions had to be made, and trust built – instantly. Conventional inhibitions were fragmented and the group was compelled into forced immediate mutual dependency. As a participant in this experiment, I observed that we had to trust first, and learn later.

391568_10151166289641970_1961416921_n

Comfort zones were abandoned in a stirring cacophony of panic and enthusiasm as people came out of their shells and made miracles happen. Despite the diverse group of community members, we were able to build a safe environment of trust and acceptance for all to talk about their greatest fears, darkest secrets, shared hopes and similar interests. Relationships were formed during this time that will endure for life.

Dig Challenge

A number of support groups have developed for people within this group who are, or have been, in complicated circumstances. Many in this community have discovered a new level of acceptance for themselves and others, as well as a better tolerance for things they previously did not comprehend. We have learned, and are still learning, so many important life skills.

wheelathonI met people whom I would never have met if not for this ‘experiment’. It is with great pleasure that I can now walk into a room containing this group and see only friends that I know accept me for who I am. These people are from all walks of life. As a person I grew more in the those four months than in any other similar period of my life. Our kids saw our family develop into more confident, positive, social, and valued members of a community. For me there is no dollar amount that can be placed on this. I have witnessed people with debilitating emotional and financial problems rise up out of their own hopeless circumstances and re-purpose their lives.

340859_10151221771666970_1924045579_oWhen asked on camera how I felt about the challenges being over, I was confused. I told them I felt the challenges would now begin. For four months, seven days a week, we had been directed on what to do,when to do it, how often to do it, and how fast to do it.  Now we were are all suddenly cast into an inky black pool of uncertainty, cut adrift from the meticulously scripted world of “Reality” TV. We didn’t always agree with each other, or the producers. However, not once, during our many ‘on camera’ interviews, did my family express a hint of doubt that we would succeed at every challenge.

IMG_7796

We were privileged to have been a part of this experience. I am so proud of all the people in this new community who have done something, a little or a lot, to help out another person in the past four months. There were times when we weren’t able to put as much time or energy into the challenges based on work, family obligations, school, or illness. I’ve always heard that volunteering is a great way to feel good about oneself, whether it is acknowledged or anonymous. I’d done things throughout the process that I would never have considered doing before. It was scary at times, definitely out of the comfort zone, and always exciting.

621876_10151180326161970_1671669973_o

Officially our ‘experiment’ ended after 6.5 months of filming. The production crews, camera teams and story editors had all packed up and gone home. The last shot had been canned and sent to editing. Many had expressed concern about going back to the lives they had before this show. I shared in the opinion that I didn’t want to go back to my ‘old’ life.

People are allegedly healthier, happier and live longer lives when surrounded by an emotional support group. That is what has emerged for us from this volatile social experiment. We metamorphosed into a new community and now call these new-found neighbours ‘friends’.

I have earned a spot as a valued member of my community. It was a tough haul to get here but worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears along the way. I wish all communities were able to benefit from this type of opportunity. Don’t you?

ball

(Visited 52 times, 1 visits today)

Comments (15)

  1. December 1, 2014 - 5:28 pm Reply

    Sounds to me like you have found, through hard work, the village we’d all like to have!

    • Carin Harris
      December 1, 2014 - 9:31 pm Reply

      Exactly! It has been great in the past two years to get to know these people better and have them in our lives. It is a village and we rely on each other almost daily still.

  2. December 1, 2014 - 5:40 pm Reply

    What a fantastic opportunity!! There is nothing better than when people pull together to create a supportive community!

    • Carin Harris
      December 1, 2014 - 9:29 pm Reply

      It was truly fantastic. I have never been more comfortable with a group of people before. Of course this has been happening more since the filming than during as we were so busy!

  3. Janet
    December 1, 2014 - 8:58 pm Reply

    Awesome that you were part of all this! I caught several episodes and found it to be really interesting.

    • Carin Harris
      December 1, 2014 - 9:26 pm Reply

      Definitely life altering but primarily because of the people. I can’t watch ‘reality’ tv any more after seeing how they edited our reality lol.

  4. December 1, 2014 - 11:36 pm Reply

    What an amazing experience! That is something you can write a whole blog series on. I’ve never been one for reality tv because so much is cut out and edited but for some people it makes for great entertainment. What a challenge!

    • Carin Harris
      December 2, 2014 - 11:56 am Reply

      True. I’m considering doing a followup for two years later – to show how much it has influenced us. Good topic for this challenge!

  5. December 2, 2014 - 1:20 pm Reply

    What an incredible experience. I feel the stress at the start would have made me nutty, but it is amazing to see what happened during and after. Congratulations on participating and finding a great meaning in it.

  6. December 4, 2014 - 11:38 am Reply

    Sounds like an awesome show. 😉

  7. Rachel
    December 4, 2014 - 12:26 pm Reply

    Having participated with you, I agree… I wish every community had the opportunity to have what we now have! I’m grateful for having met you, Carin, and your family! I think its a great idea to do some follow up with some of the show participants. Who still needs insurance or a will, who is debt-free (maybe not counting mortgage) or getting there quicker, who is still spending emotionally, how are we making our community a better place and bringing local businesses here, etc.

  8. Rosita
    December 15, 2014 - 12:57 pm Reply

    Wow! That sounds like an AMAZING opportunity, Carin! Sounds like it was a life-changing but rewarding experience for you, your family and Bowmanville. : )

  9. Helena
    April 3, 2015 - 10:49 pm Reply

    well said!! Well written. What a journey that was. 🙂

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: