In November 2005, David Gilliam performed the delivery of his own baby daughter, Naomi, in the master bedroom of the house he had just bought in Armada, Michigan. He and his wife, Maryann, had five other children as well—the oldest was eleven—and they were active in their community. In addition to being a father and working simultaneous jobs as firefighter/EMT and paramedic, David was training to get his instructor coordinator license, and rebuilding their new home. The 120 year-old farmhouse needed new electrical and plumbing, had mold growing inside the walls, and, with only two bedrooms, was cramped for a family of eight.
Four weeks later, on Christmas Eve, David lay sick in that same room. Toxic spores from the mold in the walls were killing him. He died in the hospital that night, and the doctor forbade his family to live in their home until the deadly mold could be removed. On Christmas morning, unable to afford repairs or a second house, Maryann and her six children had become homeless. For a while, they lived with relatives, neighbors and friends, but no one could keep seven house guests indefinitely, so the Armada Fire Department nominated them for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a television reality show that rebuilds one home per week for families in need. Not only did Extreme Makeover: Home Edition build the Gilliams a new mold-resistant house, expanding it to over four times its previous size, but they did it in record time: 53 hours and 54 minutes!
Over half a million donors, celebrities, and volunteers have supported Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in its nine year run, but none quite like the highly trained and disciplined builders. The 54-hour miracle happened because the builders submitted themselves so thoroughly to best practices, building codes, and blue-prints. They volunteered, not because of any special connection to Gilliams, but because it was simply the right thing to do. As head-builder Rick Merlini put it at the groundbreaking, “The most important thing that we have to realize is that this is an opportunity to be part of something much bigger and greater than ourselves.” Like soldiers, builders are heroes because of their humility, and this yields miracles even when the cameras aren’t rolling. Any building built to code, any moon launch, computer system, college education, bill passed through congress, surgery, newspaper or other mass-produced good or service far exceeds what anyone could accomplish alone because people choose to be team-players, to relinquish individuality to something greater.
If you are naturally institutional, then you prefer to be moral by serving as part of an institution. In practice, that involves learning and adopting rules, principles, and best practices from reputable authorities. Institutions can take the forms of families, religions, states, companies, schools, teams, systems of logic, and even reality TV shows. To maintain discipline and defend against immoral impulses, you may seek “pure” environments where you are less likely to encounter negativity or temptation.
The preceding is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of GRIN Free – GRIN Together: How to let people be themselves (and why you should) by Christopher Santos-Lang.