Cameron Freeman was aged just six when, looking up from his Lego, he said the most profound thing . . .
“He said ‘Mom, I think I know what Hell is’,” recalls his mother, Shelley. “[He said] ‘People make their own Hell right here on Earth. Like when they’re mean to someone and it makes them feel bad inside themselves, that’s their Hell. Heaven is the other way, when you do something nice, you feel so good. You make up your own Heaven, right in your own head'”.
This, remember, from a six-year-old. That compassionate Cameron had a bright future ahead of him is obvious. That he never got the chance to realize his potential is tragic.
Cameron Freeman was aged just 21 when a drunk driver in a stolen vehicle crashed into his car and killed him. The response – not from Paul and Shelley, his parents – was laced with rage. In the aftermath – Cameron’s qualities the inspiration – a tremendous good was introduced into the world. It is called The Cameron Effect.
“People were so condemning of the drunk driver,” explains Shelley. “All I could think about was all the love I have for my son. I didn’t want to focus on who killed him, I wanted to focus on Cameron. I was coming from a place of love [and] I didn’t want to go down the road of negativity. I didn’t want others to go down that road [either].”
That it is clear from where Cameron’s best qualities came is but a footnote to this story, although Shelley’s role in raising a remarkable young man must not be overlooked. The point is that, even in the most trying circumstances imaginable, the Freemans – Shelley, Paul, Cameron and Zach, his brother – have managed to unleash a tremendous force for good.
“The Cameron Effect was started in response to the anger and vengeance expressed about the crash,” explains the project’s mission statement. “Instead of the negativity, we ask people to do what we think Cameron would have preferred. [We ask people to] do seven acts of compassion [in his honor]. These don’t have to be big or costly, these can be simple and even thoughts of forgiveness count. For a real challenge, try being compassionate towards someone that you find it hard to be compassionate towards. Then think about how doing each deed makes YOU feel. Cameron was born on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, a day of violence and anger that lives on in infamy. Let his death transform this day into the opposite – a day of love, compassion and forgiveness.”
Here at OM HQ, where such things as love, compassion and forgiveness drive our efforts, we think this is a wonderful notion and we couldn’t be more inspired. That another dark day, September 11, is once again approaching hasn’t gone unnoticed here or in Lincoln, Nebraska, Cameron’s home town.
That in mind, the team behind The Cameron Effect is asking people to use the 12-week period between two awful anniversaries to do as much good as possible (as a guide, we’re told seven deeds during that time would represent the greatest tribute possible to Cameron Freeman, whose life has mobilized kindness campaigners in Lincoln and beyond and whose legacy is turning out to be pretty great).
Don’t stop at doing the good deeds, however. Share the stories and tell people how good it felt. You can even detail your experiences on special cards, which, in time, will be made into Kindness Quilts that will be displayed in an attempt to further inspire and spread the message. You can find more details here.
“So much good came from Cameron’s life,” adds Shelley. “We want to make something good come from his death [and] that’s what this is all about – to make a better world and a better place for us [all] to live. Cameron would have wanted that.”
Here at OM HQ, that’s what we want as well and we’ll be sure to do our good deeds. That’s the least we can do for Cameron and his fabulous family, whose ambitions are so like our own and whose example we will be following when we return to the studio to make our next batch of OMs.
Here’s to Cameron, here’s to the Freemans and here’s to compassion . . .