The latest community endeavor to surface in my Facebook newsfeed has presented itself in the form of a video blog of sorts, titled “Show & Tell.” A week ago, I received a notification inviting me to like the show’s Facebook page. Intrigued, I decided to visit the page.
Posted was a short description advertising “Show & Tell” as a series of short videos aiming to humanize the faces we walk past every day, along with a 24-second promotional video that left me with many questions, but eager for more. The short clip featured a gold chain being dangled by a hazy silhouette in the background. A few days later, this clip was followed by the first edition in the series.
The hazy figure in the teaser was unveiled to be Amir Hall ‘17, who was put in the spotlight to show his object and tell his story. In the video, Hall introduces viewers to the “culture of letters” he and his friends managed to establish through the exchange of messages, characterized by length and fluidity, appreciation and sentiment. He reflects on the lesson he learned about communication after maneuvering through feelings of disappointment upon receiving a birthday card from home, penned simply with the message, “We love you more than life.” The realization surfaced that he had lost sight of this distinct culture of letters, embodied by great meaning being packed into a simple form — a symbolic representation of life back home.
The people spearheading this community endeavor are Meghan McDonough ‘16, Khalil Flemming ‘16 and Sarah Jordan ‘16, who came together to create “Show & Tell”, individually inspired by a variety of catalyzing factors. In my interview with her, McDonough recounted a string of enlightening experiences with the Athletic Team Engagement Leaders and the Pioneer Valley Citizen Summer (PVCS) that she said together enhanced her sense of pride in the student population and led to the realization that student backgrounds are a valuable facet of the Amherst community we do not exploit enough.
The design of “Show & Tell” is inspired by an icebreaker activity done with the Athletic Team Engagement Leaders, in which all members of the group were asked to bring in an item meaningful to them and talk about what it reflected about their background or values. What began as a cheesy icebreaker turned out to be a very real experience, rooted in dialogue across the exchange of personal narratives, which was formative of profound connections. McDonough said that getting to know the 30 students she lived with in Newport during PVCS reiterated for her the importance of building relationships based on acknowledging and learning from her peers’ diverse backgrounds.
Sharing a similar perspective on the effectiveness of communicating raw stories to spark connections, McDonough and Flemming had been toying with ways to use such a model to increase solidarity across the Amherst student community since last spring. Moved by the sharing that was done in small groups on the Day of Dialogue early this semester, Jordan was eager to join the partnership. The trio’s individual provocative encounters with the Day of Dialogue was the final the catalyst in bringing the idea of “Show & Tell” to fruition. The overarching mission of the project is to offer Amherst’s community of students a tool that could aid in the facilitation of conversations about experiences that many students are willing to share, but rarely get the chance to talk about.
“There’s nothing antagonistic about what we are doing. We’re not trying to ‘fix’ anything,” Jordan told me. “We were inspired, and this is our attempt to enhance the goldmine of students by tapping into the experiences and stories our classmates have to share. People here are so open and willing to talk about these kinds of things.”
Khalil touches on the feeling of missing out on the interactions that we, by nature, are unable to have with the people with whom we share a campus. “Show & Tell” aims to offer the closest thing to a solution to this limitation.
The trio is deserving of admiration for committing to a project that carries the challenge of presenting just a fragment of an individual’s story — enough to captivate the viewer, yet in a way that does the subject’s narrative justice. Jordan, Flemming and McDonough bear the great responsibility of striking a balance between conveying the subjects’ stories in order to accurately reflect their feelings and experiences, and doing so delicately and respectfully.
The short-term vision for the “Show & Tell” project includes the production of six more installations in the series by the end of the semester and continuation of the effort into next year. The creators said that the long-term plans for “Show & Tell” will be dependent on what the student community makes of the project.
As we inevitably find ourselves scrolling through our Facebook newsfeeds in whatever downtime we manage to find between the intricacies of our daily schedules, take 90 seconds to watch the first in this series of Show and Tell videos. Hopefully it may encourage you to reflect on the experiences you are passionate about to share with others, and the profound dimensions there are to the people we walk among daily that are ready to be explored.
“If something intrigues you about the people in these videos, ask them,” Flemming encouraged students in an interview. “These people have fully consented to sharing their story and are not just putting themselves out there to be profiled. They are starting a conversation, and we are trying to facilitate that. A lot of conversations can be started from this kind of thing.”