‘Extreme Makeover’ just our way of life in the valley

True story.

When I was 17, I had no idea where Fargo was. Heard of it. Had a high school German teacher that went to NDSU and sometimes made the 190-mile trip on weekends back to this so-called “Fargo.”

Moorhead? Got a ride here after my junior year of high school for a PGA Junior golf tournament. Played the country club. We never made across the river to Fargo.

Call me a high school kid who only cared about the hourlong drive to the Metrodome, but parts up this way were still hidden in the folds of my map.

It wasn’t until I drove up here for a campus visit to Moorhead State with a buddy of mine late in my senior year did I figure it all out. Went too far on Main, crossed that old green bridge and started seeing all these North Dakota plates. “Oh, HEEEERE’S Fargo.”

And, now, America. HEEERE’S Moorhead!

When the news that a Fargo-Moorhead family would be the recipient of a new home on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” my immediate thought was someone in north Fargo would be selected. Just a random thought. Nothing against my Moorhead, a place I’ve called home for about 15 years, but Fargo does have us outnumbered 3 to 1.

So when the Grommesh family’s home — not too far from where I live (and very close to where I lived in the mid ’90s) — was chosen for all the right reasons, Moorhead suddenly hit the spotlight, a light that shines for a hundred miles in every direction.

I knew something was up as we were driving to church Sunday morning, passing a blockade along 20th Avenue South.

People from all over our region are helping out this deserving family. National TV project or not, it’s not in our F-M way of life to do something just for media attention. We’ve fought floods passing dirty sandbags in the rain and sleet. We’ve gathered to put on fine marathons, USA Wrestling events, American Legion World Series and world hockey tournaments. Helped combine our neighbors harvest. Carved out sizable donations from our paychecks to local charities. Bid on silent auction items for fundraisers and twirled spaghetti for our second meal in a row when we knew our donation was helping someone in need.

We’re humble people who know that lending a hand is the best way to get a hand. And even then, that’s far more attention than we ever expected to receive.

So when the rounds of applause swell in south Moorhead sometime on Sunday, volunteers will rejoice, shed tears and know that the Grommesh family has become everyone’s neighbor for miles around.

That’s the spirit of volunteerism.

Then when the show airs, we’ll feel it all over again when the Grommesh family will become all of America’s newest neighbor.

There’s no doubt, too, that America will again see the spirit of the Red River Valley.