If Hollywood had shot a movie about an Afro-American boy coming from a single-parent poor family, who went from being barely literate to becoming a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital; we would love the story.
Now, what if, this were a true story – how would one tell it?
Ben Carson introduces it himself this way: “It might also be called a book about excellence. Or about dedication” (13).
How can a mother push her two young boys to perform better at school when they come home with terrible grades?
Sonya Carson married at age thirteen. She never had any sort of education and sadly married the wrong man who was leading a double life. She finally took the decision to separate from him, although this would leave her in poverty with her two sons.
She could not bring her kids anything in terms of education and having several jobs at the same time was her unique solution to keep the family’s head above the water. She turned to God and asked for wisdom about what to do.
The answer she had was to shut off the TV and make the kids read books. From an early age, the boys went to the library to borrow books and they had to write two reviews a week to their mother.
Within a short period of time, Ben went from being “the dumbest kid in the class” (13) to a straight-A student! The secret to this: a good use of time and resource, combined with perseverance.
“’A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of low spirit gains honor’” Proverb 29:23 (28)
With excellency often comes pride.
Ben starts to boast a lot about himself, comparing his better grades with former top students, going the extra mile in class and enjoying being praised by the teachers. This attention enlarges his pride. The other side of the coin – other kids do not want to be friends with him because of his attitude.
He knows he cannot go any further without having to humble himself – not only before God, who has given him abilities, but also before the fact that without his mother being so strict, he would not have made it so far. In fact, other neighbors start telling his mother that she is being harsh, but although it hurts, she knows it is the right thing to do.
Today, decades later, Carson keeps on reading the Proverbs daily.
“’You are here to serve the sick. Do not ever forget that!’” (73)
Studying medicine was clear to Ben when he was only eight years old. By giving his best throughout the years, he was accepted to medical schools and to the best hospitals for his internship.
His long story has led him to learn the patterns of what makes up the best doctor in his field:
– Having empathy towards patients – serving them.
– Taking risks to do what others would not do, in order to give people a chance to live: “’But look at the alternative if we do nothing’” (70).
– Treating everyone well “Be nice to people […] Everybody is important” (84).
– Leaning on God to perform some miracles in moments things are out of control: “’We don’t have to explain miracles; all we have to do is to accept them’” (142).
– Surrounding oneself with the right people – have the right assistant.
How to think big
In the second part of the book, Dr. Carson continues to provide some lessons he has learned from his years of experience with the acronym as shown below.
Talent: making an appropriate use of our God-given abilities to reach excellency. Fight for yourself when you have pressure from those who want to impose their will on your life.
Honesty: the golden rule, Matthew 7:12 “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (169).
Insight: reflecting on what we learn and committing ourselves to do the best in our field.
Nice: bear with one another in love.
Our Knowledge is our value. We learn the truth through knowledge and we can use that to change the world for the better.
Books: read them! Books have changed Carson’s life. Reading brings knowledge and it is a good exercise for the brain as it is for a muscle, and it broadens imagination.
In-depth learning: go beyond average knowledge. Know your field and deeper.
God: “God created us, loves us, and wants to help us realize our potential so that we can be useful to others” (249). We serve God by serving others.
This book is the story of and valuable experience put into words by Doctor Benjamin Carson, the “dumbest kid in the class” who became a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This is the story of a single black-American mother who did not accept her sons to give excuses to why they could not accomplish what God had in store for their lives.