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Saturday, 30 May 2015

Five Lessons from the Life of Ben Carson, M.D.

Famed American neurosurgeon Ben Carson documented example after example of God's providential guidance in his life in his autobiography Gifted Hands, published by Zondervan in 1996. Almost twenty years later and now retired from medicine, this Christian leader announced in early May that he is seeking the Republican nomination for President, for the election to be held in 2016. Since I'm not an American citizen, I do not have a vested interested in what happens in that race. However, I do believe that every nation needs leaders with integrity.

1.  Television watching is overrated.
   When he was about ten years old, Ben Carson's mother made a new rule at home.  She saw how much time her boys were spending in front of the television and declared that they would choose three shows per week to watch.  At the same time, she instituted weekly visits to the library.  She asked them to each read two books per week and write a report about what they learned from it.  This was all in addition to homework!
   Near the end of his book Gifted Hands, Carson notes that a Baltimore middle school had a Ben Carson Club, where each member made the same resolution about limiting television viewing and reading at least two books per week.  In his speaking engagements, Dr. Carson would encourage young people to read books because it is an active form of learning.

2.  Build on your God-given talents
   One of Ben Carson's natural talents was hand-eye coordination.  So often we may be inclined to think this talent leads to great success in sports, but Carson recognized it could also be key in being a skilled surgeon.  He was able to visualize things in three dimensions, knowing what the effects on different parts of the brain would be from every action he took in surgery.  A natural talent needs to be developed and can help give direction for young people as they consider the career for which they would be best suited.
3.  No learning is ever wasted
   One of Ben Carson's favourite television programs was called College Bowl.  It involved teams competing from different colleges to answer trivia-type questions.  At home he and his brother played along, trying to answer questions before the teams on the screen.  Because he aspired to be on such a team one day, he beefed up his knowledge of classical music and art work.
   Even though College Bowl went off the air the year Carson entered college, he realized later that no knowledge is ever wasted.  Because he had come to appreciate classical music, it became a point of connection between himself and his future wife, Candy.  His ability to converse knowledgeably about classical music with his interviewer surprisingly played a role in his acceptance into a coveted neurosurgery internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1976.

4. When God calls you, he will make a way for you
   A few times Ben Carson fumbled on his way to becoming a surgeon.  One example, during his first semester at Yale, he learned that his system of studying material was not good enough for college. He was used to cramming just before an exam and being able to master the material.  However, on the night before his chemistry exam--which he had to ace in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor--he was in despair.  He knew he could not learn all the material and be successful on his own. He cried out to God, expressing his sorrow and regret at failing God and himself.  Falling asleep at midnight, he had an unusual dream in which he was shown how to solve all the problems he would have on the exam the next day. Carson never experienced anything like this before or since.  He learned his lesson about being faithful to what was required of him, but felt a strong assurance through this and other times he faced hurdles that God had a plan for him, and He would bring it to fruition.

5.  Do not feed your ego
   Ben Carson as a doctor had in mind what was best for his patients.  When some of his developments (such as using a hemispherectomy (removal of half the brain) to cure uncontrollable seizures in young children and leading a team in separating Siamese twins who were joined at the back of the head so that both children survived) were successful, he was thrust into the media spotlight.  He was willing to answer questions in a press conference, but when asked to come on a talk show with the girl who benefited from his first seizure-curing surgery, he declined.  He knew how easily such recognition can make a person think of himself more highly than he ought to.  He also did not want to become a celebrity doctor.  His goal was to used his gifted hands for the benefit of as many people as possible.
   In his announcement of running for the presidential nomination, he stated that he is not a politician and does not want to be one.  He explained, "Politicians do what is politically expedient, and I want to do what's right." [see short clip from New York Times, May 4th 2015]

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