By Jennifer Wulff
Updated October 17, 2005 12:00 PM

Call it an occupational hazard. It’s impossible for Amy Grant not to get attached to the people she meets as the host of NBC’s new dream-granting reality series Three Wishes. On the singer’s cell phone, there’s a saved message from an 11-year-old girl who finally got the reconstructive cranial surgery she needed thanks to the show: “Hi, Amy, it’s Abby. I just want to thank you for the flowers—call me.”

“Because of that time we spent together,” says Grant, “there will always be a connection there.”

Raised in a Christian family in Nashville, Grant, whose music career began in the Christian Contemporary world with her 1978 debut Amy Grant, had never worked on a TV show, but as soon as NBC told her about the premise for Wishes, she was eager to be a part of it. As host of the show—which the network hopes will pack the same kind of wet-hanky wallop that’s made ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition such a success—she’s already arranged a family reunion for a terminally ill man, helped a boy become officially adopted by his stepdad and hooked up a losing New Mexico Little League team with hands-on coaching from the Texas Rangers. “The kids were blown away,” says coach René Mendoza. “They couldn’t believe that a major league baseball team took time to come and work with them.”

Still, for every wish granted, there are plenty that go unanswered, which is why Grant—who is helped on the show by former TLC hunks Carter Oosterhouse (Trading Spaces) and Eric Stromer (Clean Sweep)—is quick to point out that it’s the show’s producers, not she, who decide which people’s dreams will come true (so save the angry letters when you don’t get that one-on-one with Brad Pitt you were hoping for). But she does offer those who find themselves under the show’s “wish tent” a few pointers. “I’ve had people come up and say, ‘I want a house,’ and that’s when I have to say, ‘I want to tell you straight up that we’re doing good things, but it’s also a TV show and NBC is not going to put itself in direct competition [with Home Edition], so I wouldn’t want you to waste your wish.'”

It’s that kind of concern for others, says her country singer husband, Vince Gill, whom she married in 2000, that makes Grant, 44, a natural for Wishes. “The show is about showing decency and kindness to people, and that’s how she’s always lived her life,” says Gill, 48. “I think it’s so perfect for her to be the kind soul she is in front of the world. Amy doesn’t have to be anything but Amy.”

Living in Nashville with Gill, their daughter Corrina, 4, and her three children from her 16-year marriage to music producer Gary Chapman—Matt, 18, Millie, 15, and Sarah, 13—the five-time Grammy winner only has one wish for herself—to have more time with Gill. “She always uses the expression ‘I just want to breathe the same air as you,'” says Gill. Although Wishes does keep Grant away for three or four days at a stretch, it doesn’t compare with the three-to-four-month tour schedules she endured in her ’90s heyday (her 1991 pop debut Heart in Motion sold 5 million copies). “There’s a time that life is really about making your mark in your career,” says Grant. “Now, I don’t want to miss the class play and the dance recital.”

Wishes also gives Grant the chance to brandish her favorite prop. At the end of each episode, Grant—whose last album, Rock of Ages…Hymns and Faith, was released in June—picks up her guitar and says goodbye to that week’s featured town with a live concert. (Call it the Three Wishes version of “Driver, move that bus.”) “It’s the bow at the end of the week,” says Grant. “It gives me a chance to share my gifts.”

In return, the show gives her something huge: bragging rights at the dinner table. “It’s the difference between ‘I got four loads of laundry done and made veal Parmesan’ to ‘I saw a girl walk for the first time in four years,'” says Grant of her daily duties. “Sometimes Vince will come home and say, ‘Tell me about the miracle that happened today,’ and I’ll say, ‘Tell me about your day first, because this is going to be a hard act to follow.'”

Jennifer Wulff. Lauren Comander in Nashville and Kelly Williams in Chicago