11/08/2011 12:17 pm ET | Updated Jan 08, 2012

The Real Jersey Shore

During the last two decades, we have witnessed the emergence of a phenomenon that has become known as reality television. Reality shows have become a guilty pleasure of many TV viewers. Some of us don't want to admit that we are hooked on one show or another, but many of us have been drawn in by a variety of unusual offerings. I struggle with the term reality. I hope that I am not bursting anyone's bubble with the not-so-surprising revelation that reality shows are staged. I also hope that your lives do not mimic the train wreck-like productions presented to us as real life.

As a man with Jersey roots, I must admit I watched with curiosity as the show Jersey Shore was unveiled. After all, I spent many summer nights cruising the boardwalk at Seaside Heights. I often stopped to place a quarter down on a number at one of Lucky Leo's booths as the Wheel of Chance spun. The hope was to win a Doors album or In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. I guess that tells you how old I am. If we were cruising "The Boards" with a girl, we, of course, had to try to win a stuffed animal while displaying our basketball-shooting prowess. It was a great time, and I often grin when I think back to those evenings "Cruising the boards at the Shore."

I am not necessarily proud of it, but I must admit that, initially, the Jersey Shore characters and their ridiculously childlike behavior amused me. Imagine my disappointment after seeing in to what this so-called reality show degenerated. I was especially disappointed by the picture the show painted of the Jersey shore and particularly Italian men and women. I guess calling it a bit less than flattering is an understatement. I might be a bit partial because I have been married for more than thirty-five years to a Jersey girl with Italian roots, but the show's portrayal of Italian women is weak.

The purpose of my ramblings is not to talk about reality TV. I need to tell you about a different side to the Jersey shore. I am a building contractor in Virginia and spend some of my spare time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity up and down the East Coast. I recently spent a weekend not far from Seaside Heights, New Jersey, volunteering on a Habitat for Humanity blitz build. The weekend was spent helping a good family build the home they were going to buy. We started framing on Saturday morning, and 163 volunteers showed up to help frame this home. Sunday, we had about 135 people show up to help put the siding and roof on the home. Late in the day on Sunday, the very emotional widowed father of two children who is buying the home stood on his new front porch and thanked the group of volunteers for helping. As I stood next to the homeowner to be and listened to his words, I looked out to the group of volunteers. I saw grins. I saw tears. I saw heads held high. I saw people proud to help a neighbor. What I saw was reality and the real Jersey shore.