The property was a total mess. The weeds in the front were at least five to six feet tall. The weeds in the backyard were not any better. I couldn't believe there were actually tall weeds growing inside the swimming pool. The other day I noticed an orange tree by the side of the house. Funny, I didn't notice it before because of all the bushes and shrubs that were growing by it. The orange tree was loaded with oranges. In spite of the fact that its surrounding was a mess, neglected, and uncared for, the orange tree grew healthy and produced fruits like it was supposed to.
When my son Michael was little we listened regularly to a Christian radio program called "Unshackled!" This program dramatized the real-life stories of people who through drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, and other evil habits and practices in their lives, had reached rock bottom, with nowhere to go, and no hope. Then in desperation, they cried out to God: God, if you are real, please deliver me out of this living hell.
Think for a moment what the home life was like for these people and their children before turning their lives over to God. For some of these people, their chaotic and meaningless lives went on for years. Were the children affected by it? Apparently, some grew up to be just like their parents. But, amazingly, others, for some reasons seemed unscathed by the nightmarish childhood they had had. Like the orange tree, in spite of their environment and surrounding, they lived productive lives that reached out to uplift and bless humanity.
Ben Carson's story is a story of triumph over adversity. He grew up in stunning poverty in the poor section of Detroit with his mother and brother in their single-parent family. After his parents divorced when he was eight, he and his brother were raised by his uneducated but hard-working mother, who was one of 24 children and got married at the age of 13.
Ben Carson was such a poor student in elementary school that his fifth-grade classmates nicknamed him "Dummy." At that point in his life he was totally unmotivated with failing grades, low self-esteem, and a terrible temper that almost got him in serious trouble.
Upon seeing his fifth-grade mid-term report card, his mother was horrified. Ben was failing nearly every subject. She didn't know what to do. After much thought, she decided that Ben should start reading more and watching less TV.
Immediately, she started a regimen of turning off the TV set except for two programs per week that they could watch. The rest of their time, they were required to read two books and submit to her a written report on what they had read. Even though she couldn't read (the boys didn't know it then), she would 'read' the reports and place a check-mark on them. She would then encourage her boys to learn more and do better, and should they need any help, to look to their Heavenly Father. Within 18 months, Ben went from the bottom to the top of his class.
It was the books that opened Ben's eyes to the possibility of a better life. He said: 'You know, between the covers of those books I could go anyplace in the world, I could be anybody, I could do anything,' Carson said. 'So you know, it dawned on me: educate yourself, become incredibly valuable and incredibly knowledgeable and don't be a victim.'
He graduated with honors from Detroit's Southwestern High School and received a scholarship to Yale University. He then went on to medical school at the University of Michigan. By age 33 he had earned his current position as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins.
Today Dr. Ben Carson is one of the most successful surgeons in the world. World renowned for his ground-breaking achievements in the separation of brain-conjoined Siamese twins, and is frequently the subject of national periodical and newspaper articles, and was featured in the ABC News six-part documentary "Hopkins 24/7".
He is the recipient of more than 20 honorary degrees and dozens of national citations of merit, including The Heritage Foundation's Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship; the American Spirit Award, the Air Force Recruiting Service's highest civilian honor; the Jefferson Award of the American Institute for Public Service; and Johns Hopkins' King Award for his efforts to reach out to hundreds of schoolchildren in Baltimore, Maryland, encouraging them to make the most of their intellectual potential.
He is president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments.
He has also written three best-selling books about his life: "Gifted Hands", "Think Big," and "The Big Picture". All three stress faith in God, belief in yourself, and commitment to excellence--values he first learned from his mother.
Dr. Carson's life story reflects how anyone can overcome obstacles in life to realize his or her dreams. For Ben, the odds were against him from the get-go. He was poor, his mother had to hold two or three jobs just to meet basic necessities, he was black, he had no father figure or role model in his life, he had a violent temper, he was unmotivated, and had very low self-esteem. He could have easily been the child who slipped through the cracks in the system and got left behind.
So you see, young people, your surrounding may not be conducive to learning, but it shouldn't be made an excuse for not excelling in everything you do. The orange tree produced oranges in spite of the neglect it received and growing in an unkempt, substandard surrounding. Like Ben Carson, you can choose to rise above your circumstances and be a blessing to the world.
'Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godliness--godlikeness--is the goal to be reached. Before the student there is opened a path of continual progress. He has an object to achieve, a standard to attain, that includes everything good, and pure, and noble. He will advance as fast and as far as possible in every branch of true knowledge. But his efforts will be directed to objects as much higher than mere selfish and temporal interests as the heavens are higher than the earth.' --Education, Pages 18, 19.