I believe Cam Newton is coming to Walnut Cove. Yep, THE Cam Newton, quarterback of the Super Bowl-bound Carolina Panthers. When I told a young friend of mine that he was coming to town, I thought I was going to have to call 9-1-1 to help revive her. She was noticeably less excited when I told her I was only stating that by faith and not by any type of confirmation from Newton…..yet.
You see, I believe Cam is going to respond to my letter about how desperately Walnut Cove needs a gathering place for our youth. I am asking him to help us in our efforts to acquire some land as step one of the project. (I am working on Oprah and others to assist us with the actual facility construction.)
And when we dedicate the land, what better person to be our guest of honor than the man who has markedly shown his desire to bless children?
Yet for all of this positive publicity, there are Cam-haters out there. I have personally heard several negative comments (some of them racial), and I have read even more. I can’t quite wrap my brain around it.
We’re talking about a young man who, although certainly not perfect, does as much to bless children as anyone I’ve heard of lately. Like many pro athletes, he has his own organization through which to funnel good deeds—the Cam Newton Foundation. Yet unlike many other pro athletes, Cam actually visits the office a few times weekly during the offseason. He even comes up with the ideas for many of the programs his foundation sponsors.
Last Thanksgiving, the foundation fed about 900 children who otherwise might not have gotten a bountiful meal. And Cam didn’t just send money; he showed up and served the kids, alongside his family. He even led the youth in a “Dab” competition.
“Oh, he’s just riding the wave of publicity for the Panthers’ winning season!” his detractors criticize.
Uh, no—he did a Thanksgiving Jam last year, too, when the Panthers went 7-8-1. And the year before that.
This past Christmas, Cam surprised little kids, who had improved their grades, behavior, etc., with an appearance at Dick’s Sporting Goods, giving each of them $200 to spend there. He also paid a visit (not his first) to a school for developmentally-disabled children—some of whom cannot even verbally communicate or acknowledge you. But that did not hinder the Panthers’ QB. He talked to the children, regardless of lack of response, and took pictures with them.
“Oh, he’s just doing all of this for attention!” the haters cry. Nope, Cam’s been doing this since he was in college. He was raised in a close-knit family that taught him to be of value to the community. Even the clamor this season over him giving every touchdown ball to a kid in the crowd is a bit overdue; he started doing that in 2011 when he was just a rookie quarterback on a team that went 6-10.
Face it—this man loves kids. As I said before, Cam Newton has his faults—as do you and I—but any man this dedicated to children melts my heart.
He’s even taking this devotion to youth to television. Cam approached Nickelodeon about doing a series spotlighting kids who are striving toward an important goal. But Cam didn’t just pitch and run; he will actually produce the show next fall.
I could go on and on listing Cam’s accolades and extolling his generosity, but it wouldn’t make a difference to most of the people who wave him aside with a disdainful frown. Something about him simply rubs them the wrong way, and many of them can’t put a finger on the reason.
Some say he’s arrogant and too flashy for their tastes. Is it arrogant to express joy when you score a touchdown or make a big play? Because if so, I would be guilty. My personality is such that I express my joy readily—whether it be winning an Uno game or stripping the nets with a three-pointer in my driveway. I jump up and down and shout “YES!” to the sky. I never thought about expressions of excitement being interpreted as arrogant.
Let’s be real—here in the South especially, we’ve been trained to hide our feelings. You fight to hold back tears, you pretend to be cool as a cucumber when great things happen. That was a big facet of child-rearing years ago on the old paths of Southern culture.
It even filtered into our churches where being quiet and motionless became known as being reverent and “how you behave in church.” Boy, I guess King David and his exuberant joy when the Ark of the Covenant was returned would be out of place in most worship services! We’d kick him right out.
And so we kick out Cam Newton because he flashes that big grin that engulfs his face while he does a little dabbing then runs around on the sidelines, waving his hands to get the fans involved. He embarrasses us because we are too embarrassed and prideful to “open up” and “let it all hang out” the way he does.
Yes, I appreciate quiet athletes like Derek Jeter who simply do their job with no fuss. But that also happens to be Jeter’s innate personality. My easy-going, quiet hubster wouldn’t be a Cam Newton on the field. But a more extroverted, high-energy person like me might have to “let it out” or burst!
It takes all kinds to make a world. Who wants a planet of clones? Maybe it’s time to learn to appreciate these different sorts of people for who they are—not who society pressures them to be. So if Cam Newton wants to share his childlike enthusiasm with his fans, I’m okay with that.
And if he ends up coming to Walnut Cove to help our youth here, I’ll be even better with that. But even if he doesn’t, I’m still a fan of a man who so obviously enjoys playing the game of football and gives so generously of his money and his time to children.
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at email@example.com. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.