So, few will contest the fact that community service is one of the most satisfying things you can do with your time. That is not saying it is the best, or most important, or selfless. In fact, I have gained so much from my time working with the Durham Urban Ministries that I would argue that I have been bettered as a person more than I have been able to better the lives of others. And as cliché as this sounds, it was for that reason and that reason alone that I chose to do my digital essay about the organization that had so subtly yet so surely touched my life. I was originally going to construct an essay bout the different voices found on college campus and how each are wonderfully unique yet amazingly unanimous or relatable at the same time. However, that seemed rather self-serving so I opted for an option with which I would be able to serve something larger than myself. I made a video to outline the services the Urban Ministries offers in a way that captures the beauty of the mission and the positive externalities of its work—I wanted to make any call to action intrinsic in the video rather than an explicit demand or plea for help.
From the offset, I had no idea what I was doing. I am so glad that the assignment was broken down into various parts that were each dispersed in due dates across the second half of the semester because it forced me to start working on the project so I knew the hurdles relatively early rather than last minute. I am loathe to admit it, but if we had one hard due date, I am sure I would have fallen to the classic college tendency to procrastinate—a toxic combination of overwhelming amounts of outside work and irrational levels of self-confidence in being able to complete an extensive project in a short period of time. But, this way, I came to realize that scheduling interviews was not only inconvenient but time consuming and that finding a way to piece together my information in a gripping way was a serious challenge without making it seem like a Sarah Mclachlan-esuqe. The topic was quite sensitive—it would be crass to approach homelessness from a facetious perspective but I feared doing that in my desire to move as far from melodramatic and saccharine sentiment as possible. I started with an outline that bordered on paternalistic because though I understood that those who volunteer at the shelter are in no way superior to those they serve, simply more privileged, my videos and quotes came across in a way that expressed the sentiment that people have the responsibility to help those less fortunate than them. This may seem innocuous but that was neither my intention nor the mission of the Urban Ministries—they aim to help the community help themselves and those who have the chance to volunteer find themselves as positively affected as those they are assisting.
So, with the helpful input of classmates, I was able to reformat my outline in a way that was more feasible and effective. However, as with any good plan, it fell apart the minute I tried to implement it. It was hard acquiring the resources I needed to put the video together as in I needed to have certain individuals sign release statements to allow me to video tape them and I also had to schedule interview on interview with the people in charge of the organization because it was hard to find time when our schedules overlapped given the school day and the normal work day coinciding. Eventually, I managed to create an arsenal of videos and photos and facts to compile.
Then came the embarrassingly difficult part; I could not for the life of me figure out how to make a movie. I spent hours on the first draft only to produce a sub-par, barely coherent film that was neither interesting to watch nor a well-produced movie. I had spent hours figuring out how to add images and videos, trimming down the film I had and rearranging a million times in different variations to make it seem cohesive. Finally, for my first draft, I had an order that was vaguely comprehensible and the bare foundation of a good film, but it was nowhere near what it should have been. For one, there was no music! So, the first thing I did in redoing it was to add music. I perused my entire, extensive itunes library to find instrumental music to put in the background of the movie that achieved the goal of making it emotionally appealing but did not shamelessly take advantage of human emotion like the animal cruelty commercials Then, I knew I had to incorporate my favorite song, Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root, in the video somehow and there seemed no better spot than to add it in during the series of images chronicling the experience in the soup kitchen and in the photos of children at the birthday party. I did not want a cliché song like Bill Withers’ Lean On Me because I did not want to make volunteer work seem like charity. Instead, the song Send Me On My Way made the images seem fun for everyone depicting a pleasant, positive experience.
After that, it took another few hours cleaning the video up with better transitions, fading in and out, adjusting volume of individual videos and making my text seem less like an amorphous blob and more hard hitting. In the end, I am left with a video that is by no means “good” in its own right but I am quite proud of it because it has come a long way from the original mess it was. It took a lot of time but I learned a lot about iMovie and myself—who knew I had the patience to navigate the maze of technology that is my computer to create this!