THINK BIG Do It Better!
It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds. In the best books, great
men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked
for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of
past ages. Books are true levelers. They give to all who will faithfully use them, the society, the
spiritual presence, of the best and greatest of our race.
William Ellery Channing
Benjamin, is this your report card?” my mother asked as she picked up the
folded white card from the table.
“Uh, yeah,” I said, trying to sound casual. Too ashamed to hand it to her, I had
dropped it on the table, hoping that she wouldn’t notice until after I went to bed.
It was the first report card I had received from Higgins Elementary School
since we had moved back from Boston to Detroit, only a few months earlier.
I had been in the fifth grade not even two weeks before everyone considered
me the dumbest kid in the class and frequently made jokes about me. Before
long I too began to feel as though I really was the most stupid kid in fifth grade.
Despite Mother’s frequently saying, “You’re smart, Bennie. You can do
anything you want to do,” I did not believe her.
No one else in school thought I was smart, either.
Now, as Mother examined my report card, she asked, “What’s this grade in
reading?” (Her tone of voice told me that I was in trouble.) Although I was
embarrassed, I did not think too much about it. Mother knew that I wasn’t doing
well in math, but she did not know I was doing so poorly in every subject.
While she slowly read my report card, reading everything one word at a time,
I hurried into my room and started to get ready for bed. A few minutes later,
This is a book about giving our best and especially about doing whatever we can
to help others — about Thinking Big — one of the important concepts of my
life. It might also be called a book about excellence. Or about dedication.
It is also a book about people who give their best and who Think Big.
I chose this theme because our society tends to focus on super-entertainers,
sports figures, politicians, or the highly publicized individuals who do
outstanding work and get recognized for their achievements. I am all for
achievement, and just as much in favor of recognition. But what about those who
give their best but never receive recognition? Or financial reward? Or honor? Or
My life has been a rich one, having been blessed by God in many ways. My
first book, Gifted Hands* has brought me much recognition and has focused the
spotlight on me. Consequently, many people have expressed appreciation for
what I have been trying to do.
High school students have written to tell me that the book has challenged
them and changed their lives; dedicated teachers have given out copies to all
their students; a number of congregations bought copies of Gifted Hands to give
to students; I know of at least two businessmen who each bought more than a
thousand copies to distribute. And I am grateful.
I am pleased to know that my story has encouraged many and thankful for
every word of appreciation, but I also want to point out one of the great truths of
life: I did not do it alone. I had help along the way.
Competent, committed individuals gave me their best without reservation.
Often I receive the recognition, but now I want to pause long enough to shine the
spotlight on them, if only for a moment. They deserve it.
Without repeating most of the experiences detailed in Gifted Hands, I want to
acknowledge the significant individuals who helped Ben Carson climb from the
academic bottom of his fifth grade class to become, at age thirty-three, head of
pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. One of the youngest persons
ever to have such a position, I am the only black person to have such a position
at a world-renowned institution. God endowed me with ability, but I would
never have been cognizant of those gifts, or used them if others had not taken
time to share their talents by giving their best to me.
I hope that now you will walk another step further with me. I want to take you
through my life again and tell you about those special, rare, and gifted people
who have made my achievements possible. And who did it often without
realizing it, simply by giving their best.
* Gifted Hands by Ben Carson with Cecil Murphey (co-published by Review
& Herald, Hagerstown, MD, and Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI) 1990.
THINK BIG Do It Better!