Dear Mr. Newton,

We’ve never officially met. Probably never will.

I have no idea if you’re a nice person. Or have morals. Or live with integrity. Or, like they say in the media, really do think too highly of yourself.

But I can see a couple of things.

Your strength, agility and acuity are gifts from God. As you already know, you are not the only person to ever receive those gifts. But you are one of the rare gifted, who has chosen to do the private work no one ever will ever see. People don’t improve themselves because they keep doing things the same old way. They don’t get better by ignoring the advice of coaches and teachers. They don’t shine because they take things personally, pout and whine. It takes a certain kind of humility to improve. The kind of private humility that concedes, The way I have been can become better. How I’ve always done it, may not be the best way. My attitude was embarrassing, but I can change.

The person who improves is the person who humbly faces their private truth, then does the hard work to change. No one ever wakes up one morning, and lo and behold, overnight, they’ve become better than ever, with a better attitude, playing at the top of their game.

 

Every Sunday afternoon, you give evidence of the work we’ll never see.

And about all that celebrating and dancing and smiling. I haven’t seen every move or gesture. Maybe you’ve over-stepped or over-dabbed, I don’t know. All I know is, I hope you never lose your joy.

As the mom of daughters and sons, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the other game of futbol. And I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to cultivate joy in my kid’s hearts. In this crazy world, where evil abounds, and cool is always beyond our reach, the good expression of joy is so rare. Actually, too many of us have almost lost the ability to feel and respond with a healthy, right-placed, joy or sadness.

Seems like we’d be a lot better off if more people stood in front of their TV to cry and fuss and scold when evil displaces refugees, or enslaves women and children, or hordes money intended to feed the starving. Then, what if those same people stood to high five, and holler, and dab when good triumphs over evil, and lives are saved, and even when their favorite QB flies over a tall heap of linemen.

Shoot, in the little things, and in the gigantic things, I just wish we could all do a little better hurting for others when they hurt, and rejoicing with others when they rejoice. I think your great, big smile reminds a lot of people they have forgotten the joy of working hard. They have forgotten that some things are just flat-out fun. And maybe they have forgotten how to feel anything, until they watch you feel something.

I’m not saying I hope my kids grow up to be like Cam Newton, because I really don’t know you that well. But I do hope they appreciate the gifts God has given to them. I hope they humbly receive every instruction intended to help them become better. I hope they are willing to do the hard work no one will ever see. I hope they walk confidently onto the field of their chosen profession, and do the very best version of that thing they were made to do. And through every attack, and every tackle, and every get-up-and-do-it-again, I hope their hearts are filled with a joy this world cannot remove.

Next weekend at our house, we’ll throw our semi-famous Super Bowl party. We’ll have TVs and crazy, awesome food and college kids and high school students and a bunch of parents. Much as we respect Peyton, it will be an all-Panther house this year. We’re gonna have a blast watching you smile and dab and give away footballs. Then, come Monday morning, we’ll all go back to doing our thing.

I should tell you, I’m just a football watcher. Not a fanatic, or even a very good fan. I don’t know how fast you can run or how many TD passes you’ve thrown. You are not my role model, or my superman. I’ve tried to center my life around one man. Jesus Christ is my idol. My hero. My game-changer. My coach. My #1.

But Mr. Cam Newton, you sure do help us remember to make more room for joy. And I celebrate you and the joy you bring. If I was your mama I’d tell you a real and abiding joy is the greater victory, and when you have that, you have already won. Now get yourself out there on that field and light it up. Or as I say to my kids, Be the Sunshine!

And one more thing, Mr. Newton. Go Panthers!

© 2016, Angela Thomas Pharr. Angela is wife to Scott and mom to Taylor, Grayson, Storm, William and AnnaGrace. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Dallas Theological Seminary. Angela is a best-selling author and speaker who is every single day, humbled and grateful to do this thing God made her to do. You can find out more than anyone ever wanted to know at angelathomas.com.