Back in the summer of 2017, I caught a few minutes of The Today Show completely by accident.
I don’t care for the news and rarely watch it on purpose. But that particular morning, my husband left the TV on and as I paraded back and forth through the house with armloads of laundry; I never stopped long enough to change the channel. I kept hearing the familiar sound of a Southern accent and when I finally paused long enough to find out what was going on, I saw Erin and Ben Napier smiling at me from Studio 1A in Rockefeller Plaza. They were making crafts of some sort but I didn’t really pay attention because I was mesmerized by their authentic personalities and their obvious love for small town America. Especially Laurel, Mississippi, the small town-home town they have helped to revive on their HGTV show; appropriately named “Home Town.”
Believe it or not, only a couple of months after catching them on TV, I found myself sitting across the table from them in a meeting. I was certain the celebrity personas that had impressed me in the early hours of a Saturday morning couldn’t possibly be as kind as genuine as they seemed on screen, and I was right. They were even more kind and more genuine and quite possibly two of the most delightful people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. On the day we met, they had only known about Helen for a very short while and the news wasn't public yet. But I can spot a glowing, expectant mama at 40 paces and Erin’s lovely glow gave her away in a heartbeat.
These two people were in love with each other, the life that they were building and the child that was on the way and it seemed almost intrusive to be in the midst of that kind of love. I have since learned that the delightful spirit they each carry within oozes all over any room they enter so if you meet them, prepare to be blown away—and to smile. A lot.
Flash forward almost a year later and another labor of love from these two hit the shelves. Their book, Make Something Good Today, is simply delightful. This beautiful love story of family, friends and small town life is something every home needs. Even if you don’t share their style, you still need this book. Trust me. I was fortunate to cover one of their book signings back in the fall and I took some time to go up and down the long, long, LONG line of folks who assembled from near and far to meet Erin and Ben, have their book signed and snap a quick pic. These people, or “fans” were incredible. They all adored The Napiers and had nothing but the nicest things to say.
One sweet girl came from Atlanta with her mother and sister. She read the book to them on the drive over and I asked what drew her to Erin and Ben. She said: “Real life hardships are so surprising to see on television. It’s so special that they share that. It makes them seem real.”
A man who grew up in Laurel, but had since moved away, told me: “I can see my home town in her writing and the names, colors and places take me back home.”
The most precious young couple flew in from Texas just for a chance to see them in person. They are dedicated “Home Town” viewers and they said: “Everything they do is just so positive. Even the book is overflowing with good vibes.”
Before the event ended, I took some time to stand back and watch from afar.
Throughout the course of the long, long, LONG day they greeted each person with a smile and a handshake like they’ve been sharing a church pew with them for years. They happily reminisced when someone mentioned a mutual acquaintance and completely shut down the line if anyone shouted “Hotty Toddy!” Then they would start all over again with the next person in line, Ben’s cheshire grin creeping over his face while Erin’s shy smile stole the show. They never once stopped making every single person in that line feel special.
When the event ended, I visited with them a while as they stayed behind to sign another huge stack of books to leave for the store, and some for the lovely ladies working there that day…..and maybe two or three (or ten) for me. I handed them out like candy at Christmas time because I firmly believe that every coffee table in America needs one firmly planted right in the center.
I know everyone I met that day will be sitting, popcorn in lap, remote in hand waiting for the premiere of Home Town, Season Three—(Season THREE, y’all!) tonight. I’m going ahead and placing my bet that this one blows the ratings off the charts. And as we all watch these two continue to help revive the home town they love so much, I hope we will stop and take a minute to learn a little more than how to pick a paint color or build a shelf.
These really-real, home grown folks have managed to carve out little notches of time to let us peek in to their lives and they have a lot more wisdom to share than one might think on first glance. Love Jesus, love one another, be kind, give back, have fun, the list goes on and on. Whatever you take away from The Napiers, these selfless folks have artfully curated an amazing life and regardless of what you or I may or may not have in common with them or their style or their way of life; the one thing we can all do is take a little time to Make Something Good Today.