This summer, Hannah Cherry, a Spiritual Life intern at Helping Up Mission, helped some of our clients create “video postcards” to send to their loved ones. Some of the men desired also to make their videos public, in the hopes that it would encourage others. Here are four of their videos, along with Hannah’s reflections.
When Adam came in to shoot his video postcard, he had not been here for long, and I could tell he was nervous. He was shaking a little. He told me he was going to read two poems he had written for his daughter. Adam’s video was the first that made me tear up; overwhelmed by his genuine words and love for his daughter. His poems were not cliché; they were absolutely beautiful. I was inspired, and I hope his video inspires others too.
Charles is a persistent man who wants the world to hear the HUM choir sing. I kept telling Charles that I could film the choir singing, but he would also need to record himself speaking. So he did. He came into the office, unsure of what he was going to say. He was talking to Ashanti, another man in the program who helps me with the filming. Ashanti was leaning back in his chair, looking out the window, and he turned to Charles. Ashanti casually asked, “What does it all mean?” As Charles began to talk, I pressed record and he spoke from his heart.
Gerald came into the office not thrilled about being on camera, but he had something he wanted to share. Not long into the video, he began to cry. After we shot the video, he was not sure about the tears or if he wanted them to be seen. But after reviewing it, he decided to let it stand: his tears were real and genuine. Gerald’s vulnerability struck me. I could tell he was the kind of man that did not want to seem like he was not okay, but once he saw his own tears on camera he seemed to accept them.
Every so often, a man comes in to film and he just wants to talk. Lee was just that kind of man. He came in after being in the program for only a few days, but he wanted to send a message to his daughter. “You can get another phone, but you cannot get another father.” He began to cry, and I fought back my own tears. Lee knows how fleeting yet precious life is. And he wants to be there in his daughter’s life.
Reflections on the Video Postcards Project
Hannah Cherry, Spiritual Life Intern, Summer 2017
“You must be so afraid.”
“You can never trust an addict.”
I have heard those two comments repeatedly this summer from some friends and neighbors. As I began my summer as a Spiritual Life intern at the Helping Up Mission, I was fearlessly ready to pursue this experience and learn as much as I could. Being a 20-year-old woman, I had fears that I would not gain rapport. I was worried that I would not be able to embody the confidence that was necessary to gain respect. Over the course of the summer, I have been challenged far beyond my limits, and I have had to wrestle with many of my own weaknesses. I have cried, laughed, faced deep disappointment, and grown.
So, what did I actually spend my summer doing? I have been helping clients at HUM create “video postcards” for their loved ones. They have created all kinds of videos; apologies, wish-you-well videos, bed time stories, and I-miss-you videos. We were blessed to have children’s books donated that could be read on video, and then sent to the children receiving the video from their father. The responses from the families were unanimously positive. We received many “Thank you, we love and support him” messages in response.
I distinctly remember one morning when I was trying to get several videos edited and uploaded to send, but technology was failing me. I was growing terribly frustrated, and I just wanted to quit for the day. However, I knew how important it was for these videos to be sent, so I continued to pursue patience and try to send the videos. After I finally finished all that needed to be done, I sent the videos to their intended recipients. Within minutes, a mother responded to me: “Thank you, Hannah. I was very worried, and this really eased my mind. God bless you for the work you are doing.” That message overwhelmed me, humbled me – in that very moment, what I was doing mattered to someone. It bridged a gap. It eased a hurting person. It was good work.
This summer has been so much more than these videos, though. These video-making sessions with the men have allowed me to enter a small part of their world for a few moments, but it was the connections I made as I walked to lunch or left my office that changed me. The times when men would show me photos of their kids that I had been hearing about for weeks, when men would run to get the Father’s Day cards they received, or when they would come into my office distraught because the family I have been hearing about is falling apart – those are the moments that have changed me. It has been the everyday laughs and tears that I will never forget.
If I could say anything about these men, it would be that they are good men. That I have learned to trust some of them, and that each man is more than his addictions, if you are willing to accept your own struggles and relate to him. I have been disappointed and deceived at times, of course – but I have also been uplifted, supported, and encouraged. Thank you, men of HUM, for this summer, the memories, and the growing we did together. Keep making healthy choices: you are so terribly capable.