Grace Blooms from Tragedy

This gets to the mystery of the season …

If Shelley and Paul Freeman had turned cynical and cranky, you could probably forgive them for it. A little over a year ago, they lost their 21-year-old son Cameron, when a car he and three friends were riding in was crushed by a drunk driver going near 80 miles per hour. But the Freemans didn’t do that. They did what many of us can only aspire to.

Cameron Freeman died two days before the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010. It wasn’t the holiday they had planned on having. Friends called to sympathize, and to share grief and anger. But even this wasn’t right. A few nights later, Shelley woke up, her heart open and raw and her mind full. She pulled up a notebook and wrote. The anger people felt at the theft of Cameron’s life was understandable, but it was wrong. Cameron had always been generous; he had wanted to change the world in a positive way. Cameron’s birthday was coming up on December 7, and she decided to celebrate by calling for people to perform acts of kindness toward people they would not normally be kind to. That would be in Cameron’s spirit. In her notebook she wrote:

Cameron’s death is spiritual, much like the moment of birth. Awesome, sacred and profound but not without pain. I wouldn’t want a molecule of that profound love to be contaminated with hatred and anger.

Her son had wanted to change the world, she wrote, but he felt so powerless.

So we have a call to action, in the name of change, that every person who expressed anger, hatred or disdain at hearing of Cameron’s death should replace it with seven acts of kindness.

This year marked the second celebration of the Cameron effect. The day was promoted locally, and the Freemans created a blog for participants to share stories. More participated this year, most notably Union Bank, which gave away $10,000 – 100 employees were given $100 each to give away to 100 people in need; some of their stories are here. There is light shining in Lincoln.

If you’re like me, you’re in the middle of the rush and chaos of December, getting ready for the holidays. After a day of decorating or shopping, or planning for complicated holidays with family that will be part-dreaded as much as they may be enjoyed; or dreaded fully and avoided altogether. Most of us may find ourselves thinking, “This season isn’t stacking up to be quite what it’s supposed to be.” That’s probably a good time to think about challenging yourself to participate in the Cameron Effect; you can still do it, even though it’s after December 7. You may find your holiday spirit after all.

The Christmas holiday is ostensibly about Jesus, but between shopping and Christmas trees and nativity stories, it’s easy to lose what this is about. What you make of the holiday is of course up to you, but here’s where my mind wanders: It’s the dead of winter, when the days are heavy with cold and the light is scarce, but returning again. There’s a phrase that Jesus says several times as he nears his trip to Jerusalem and his execution by Imperial Rome. He says, “The kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Many people interpret that as a prophecy that the Second Coming will be soon to follow. I’ve always understood it differently. Throughout the story of his ministry in Galilee, Jesus repeatedly gathers together groups and bands and crowds of often destitute people, mixing together people of varied ranks; they pool what little food they may have and they sit down together to share it. And magic happens, magic that might have been described as an experience of “the kingdom of Heaven.” This magic is not easy to find, especially in our country where we live so securely and generally comfortably. We don’t give ourselves the chance. Thanks to the Freemans and the Cameron Effect, at least some good people are experiencing it Lincoln and elsewhere.

H/T to the Lincoln Journal Star and for the linked articles (I encourage you to read them). And you can look here for the resolution of the legal part of the tragedy.


2 thoughts on “Grace Blooms from Tragedy

  1. It always is somewhat surprising how great YOU feel when you go out of your way to do something unexpectedly kind for someone else, especially a stranger! I think it’s because people are indeed not expecting it – so they are surprised and extra grateful. This is a great story.

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