Ben Carson was just another kid trying to survive. Raised by a single mom in the Detroit ghettos he had a terrible temper and an even worse self-esteem. He was labeled the “stupidest kid in the 5 th grade” and no one held much hope for his future. How then did this angry boy become the renowned Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery of the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland as well as one of the world’s top brain surgeons?
Today’s story is not about Ben Carson, though we’ll talk about him more another time. This story is about Sonya Carson – the woman who created greatness in her son.
Sonya Carson grew up in harsher circumstances than her son. Abandoned when she was just a child (one of 24 children), she was raised in abusive foster homes. She longed for love, safety and a sense of belonging. She only made it through the 3 rd grade before she had to leave school. Whatever dreams she had were being crushed by a world of poverty and abuse.
She was only 13 years old when 28 year-old Robert Carson married her. Robert treated the beautiful little girl like a beloved “china doll”. Sonya believed she had found everything she had looked for during her lonely childhood.
It all changed when she had children. Suddenly her devoted husband was rarely at home, and she had to endure whispered conversations on the phone when he did show up. Her life plummeted back into poverty and neglect. She took it until her two boys were 8 and 10, then she found the courage to leave her husband and move to Boston.
Life was better only because she was on her own. She had the freedom to create the life she wanted. But how? Leaning on a strong faith she struggled for ways to make life better for her sons – often working 2-3 jobs just to provide food and housing. Yet she knew it would take more than that to help her boys live up to their potential – to break from the cycle of poverty.
She decided to take radical action to change things for Ben and Curtis by setting “house rules”. Her boys could only watch TV for 2 hours a week. They had to go to the library, then pick out – and read – two books every week. To earn their privilege of TV time they had to give her a written report of the books they read. Both boys resisted but they did it. They didn’t find out until much later that Sonya, with her 3 rd grade education, couldn’t even read the reports.
Her course of action paid off. Ben, in particular, changed as he realized he was not really stupid. The day he answered a question in class that no one else could answer – all because he had learned it from one of the books Sonya forced him to read – gave him a voracious appetite for knowledge. Suddenly he was devouring books – learning everything he could. He realized he held his future in his hands. He took that understanding and applied himself until he became one of the world’s top brain surgeons.
He freely admits he owes his success to his mother, Sonya. He’s right. Yes, of course had to apply himself, but it was Sonya who gave him the desire to do so. It was her actions that convinced him he could be anything he wanted to be.
Somehow this amazing woman rose above all the terrible circumstances of her own life in order to create a better understanding and a better life for her boys. Yes, the circumstances of her life changed as both her boys became successful men – Curtis an engineer, and Ben, a doctor. But ask her what her greatest success is…
“Helping my boys reach their fullest potential.”
Sonya Carson changed her life. She changed her son’s lives. And because of them she has changed the world.
Now that’s what I call success! Every single one of us has challenges to overcome, circumstances to rise above. Whether we do or not is completely up to us. Sonya could have chosen to wallow in the cycle of abuse and poverty. She chose something different.
What about you?
Make today a great one!