Mother: The Heroic, Gifted Heart Behind the Scenes
My husband recently held a contest to see who would be able to best select a good and engaging book for him to read. The winning entry came from his parents, whose recommendation is now required reading for our four older children! Gifted Hands, the story of Ben Carson, was written to inspire disadvantaged youth to reach beyond their limitations and accomplish more than their circumstances seem to offer, and Dr. Carson offers his life as one example of how it may be done. Even “advantaged” adults will benefit from the inspiring messages contained in this man’s account.
As I have pondered the message of this short book, I have been impressed by the life of Dr. Carson’s mother. She seemed to have little going for her as she struggled to provide for her two young sons. She married young to escape a difficult life. She wrestled with severe bouts of depression. She also possessed courage to persevere and to raise good and successful children, despite the odds against them all. What follows are some lessons I have noted from her example.
Do the right thing — especially when it’s hard. Sometimes people fear the consequences of doing what they feel is right, so they remain in a bad situation and allow it to get worse. Ben Carson’s mother took action. When she discovered her husband had another wife and family, she terminated their relationship. There was no revolving door. There were no child support payments or any further help from him, but she had the courage to do — and stick with — what she felt was right.
Work hard. Few well-paying jobs were available for a single black woman, and Mrs. Carson had to work multiple jobs at once. She cared for other children and cleaned up after people to provide for her family. Hard work is demanding, but not demeaning.
Learn from the experience of others. While working in the homes of more affluent people, this woman kept her eyes open. She saw how other people thought and observed the ways they used their time. She recognized that her sons were failing in their classes because they were wasting their lives, and she figured out strategies to help them turn their lives around.
Stand firm. It is relatively easy to notice when your children need to unplug and read more; it is harder to implement and maintain a system to help them discipline themselves in these matters — particularly when you are exhausted and rarely around to enforce your ideals. Mrs. Carson limited her children’s weekly television diet to three programs and required them to read — and write reports on — two books each week. And they all followed through! The boys’ grades and understanding of the world dramatically improved, giving them confidence to try harder and do more.
Learn to recognize and capitalize on opportunities. Usually, challenges are opportunities in disguise. Mrs. Carson did not have the resources to take her children on extensive field trips, but her children had time, books, and good minds — enough to prepare them for further opportunities.
Build courage by offering encouragement. When Ben heard about the work of missionary doctors, he decided (at the age of eight) that he wanted to do that with his own life. His mother’s encouragement was significant to him, and because she believed he could do it and looked for ways to make it possible, he was led to work towards his dream and accomplish much more than he initially could have envisioned. Meaningful encouragement capitalizes on strengths and always seeks real ways to make the ideal a possibility.
Trust in God. When I consider the terrible circumstances this woman faced, I can easily see how she could become depressed. Her children were uprooted and faced terrific persecution. She was burdened and alone. But Mrs. Carson was also mothered by another woman who came into her life during two darkened times, bringing encouragement and fostering a faith in God. This faith translated into hope and provided continued direction and devotion in the hearts of Mrs. Carson and her sons. Faith in God is the illumination that will light the path that is laid out before each of us in our own quest for joyful living.
Seek the good in the people around you. Heroes and heroines are to be found in the normal course of human existence, for the unheralded, garden-variety challenges are the sort which require true heroics. Mrs. Carson would probably not hold herself up as a perfect example, and neither would the woman who led her to God: this is what makes them good examples— they are like you and your neighbors. As we recognize magnificence in the people around us, we increase in our capacity to accept them, to love them, and to support them in their trials — and it will cease to be anything like a burden to us. This may be, after all, the key to superhuman strength and heroics.
©2011 Daunell Clarke/www.houseoforder.com
Photos from sxc.hu. Used with permission of MJaqueline and hvaldez1.