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For a long time, Ben had sensed that something was wrong. He had not heard his parents scream or shout at one another for days. He seldom even heard them argue. Instead they would just quit talking to each other until the whole house filled with a deep and disturbing quiet. Those silences gradually became longer and much more frequent. His father seemed to be gone more and more.
Yet Ben was still surprised by his mother's announcement.
It started like any other day for eight-year-old Ben Carson and his ten-year-old brother, Curtis. But it turned unforgettably sad when their mother sat them down and announced, "Boys, your father has moved out of this house. He's not going to be living with us anymore."
"I don't want him to leave!" Ben cried. "Please make him come back!"
But his mother shook her head. "Bennie, your father can't come back."
"Why not?" Ben wanted to know.
"He's done some ... some bad things." And that was as much as she would tell Ben and Curtis.
Ben argued with his mother. "If Daddy did something wrong, why can't you just forgive him and let him come home?"
"It's not that simple," she replied, looking like she was about to cry.
Ben wondered if he'd done something to make his father angry. But Ben's mother assured him that his daddy loved him very much and was not mad at him at all. Still, it hurt.
Ben's heart was broken. He loved his daddy. Every night he prayed for his father to come home so their family could be together again. But that never happened.
When he left, Ben's father took all of the family's money, including the "nest egg" Ben's mother had managed to store up by scrimping and saving over the years. Mrs. Carson had no job skills or work experience, so the only way she could support herself and her two sons was by cleaning houses and taking care of other people's children. It was hard work, but she was determined to do whatever it took to provide for her boys.
Even after he learned the truth, Ben continued to love his father in spite of what he had done. But Ben loved and respected his mother even more. He knew how hard she worked to take care of him and Curtis, and how much his father's actions had hurt his mother.
Sonya Carson, Ben's mother, had been born into a large and extremely poor rural Tennessee family. She was the next to the youngest of twenty-four children. Yet she only knew thirteen of her siblings because she spent most of her lonely and unhappy childhood moving from one foster home to another.
She had been just thirteen years old when she met and married Ben's father, an older man who promised to rescue her from her sad situation and take her north to Detroit. He promised to provide her with a life of wealth and adventure. Ben's father was a charming man and a good provider. He loved parties and seemed proud of his young wife. He often bought Ben's mother expensive gifts of clothing and jewelry. Ben's father seemed to spend money as fast as he earned it. Over time, Ben's mother became concerned about their finances.
After the boys were born, Ben's mother wondered where her husband was getting his extra money. She worried that he might be involved in selling alcohol or even drugs.
She finally found out that he had another wife and family, and Sonya told him to leave.
Ben found it tough to give up his hopes for a happy home where his family could all live together again. But the same year his father left, a new dream entered Ben's life.
Ben's dream was born one Sunday morning during church. Ben sat on the edge of the pew, listening intently, as their minister told an exciting true story about a missionary doctor.
"Robbers were chasing the doctor and his wife," the minister told them. "They ran as fast as they could around trees and over rocks, trying to stay ahead of their pursuers. Then they came to the edge of a cliff. They had nowhere to go. But, right at the very brink of the precipice, they spotted a crack in the rock just big enough for both of them to crawl into.
"When the bandits got to the cliff, their would-be victims were nowhere to be seen. It was as if the doctor and his wife had vanished! The robbers didn't know what to think. They stomped around, cursing, then left. The missionaries were safe."
As the story ended, Ben breathed a sigh of relief. What a thrilling life missionaries must lead!
"God hid his missionaries in the cleft of the rock," the pastor explained. "And he will do the same for you if you give him your heart and let him protect you from harm."
That's what I need, thought Ben. So when the preacher invited those who wanted to give their lives to Jesus to come forward, Ben walked down the aisle to where the minister was standing. After listening to that exciting story, Ben knew two things: he wanted Jesus to watch over him, and he knew what he wanted to do with his life.
"I know what I will be when I grow up," Ben told his mother as they walked home from church that day, "a missionary doctor!"
His mother stopped to look right at him. "Bennie," she said, "if you ask the Lord for something and believe he will do it, it will happen."
His mother's encouraging response confirmed the dream for him. From that time on, Ben was convinced that God wanted him to be a doctor one day. Somehow he held on to that dream despite many other difficult things that would happen in his young life.
* * *
Since Ben's father was no longer providing any money, Sonya had to work longer and longer hours, holding two or three jobs at a time. Many mornings she left before dawn and wouldn't get home until her sons were already asleep. Sometimes two or three days would go by without Ben or Curtis even seeing their mother.
Her exhausting schedule, the pain and sadness she felt about the end of her marriage, the heavy responsibility of raising two boys alone, and her own fear and uncertainty about the future all added up to an overwhelming feeling of discouragement and depression. Sonya often worried she might not be strong enough to make it on her own. Sometimes she wasn't sure she could go on another day.
Eventually, a few months after Ben's father had left, Sonya decided she needed help. She told the boys, "I have to go away for a few days to see some relatives."
"Are we going too?" Ben wanted to know.
"No, Bennie," she said, "I have to do this alone. Besides, you boys need to go to school. So I've made arrangements for you." Sister Scott, an elderly woman they knew from church, stayed at their house and took care of Ben and Curtis. "Just until I come back," their mother told them.
Sonya made it sound like a special adventure. And the boys enjoyed spending time with Sister Scott. She was a terrific listener who would focus on whatever the boys told her and would exclaim, "Oh, my!" every other sentence or so.
One day Sister Scott found out that Ben and Curtis wanted to learn how to roller-skate. "I can teach you," she told them. And she strapped on a pair of old- fashioned, one-size-fits-all skates - the kind that fit onto one's shoes and are adjusted with a metal key. Then she gave the boys a demonstration.
They created a sensation in the neighborhood - an eighty-year-old woman skating up and down the sidewalks of Detroit with two boys in tow. Ben and Curtis had all they could do to keep up with her. They thought, If an old lady like her can roller-skate, we can too! And before long they could.
The boys never really wondered why their mother made a number of those "visits to relatives" over the next few months. Not until they were adults did Ben and Curtis learn that those special occasions when their mother went away were actually times she felt so overwhelmed by life that she would temporarily check herself into a mental hospital to get treatment for depression and emotional stress. Then, when she felt capable of coping with life again, she'd check out and her sons would welcome her home. Life would go on after each "trip."
Every summer included one day at the Michigan State Fair. Sonya would save just enough money to pay for their admission so Ben and Curtis could take in the arts and crafts, agriculture, livestock and educational exhibits.
But they never had enough to pay for tickets to any of the midway rides. The boys could only watch other children on the rides and listen to the high-pitched screams as children were tossed and spun and whirled through the air. Ben especially liked watching children riding in the bumper cars, banging into each other and laughing. For years he dreamed of driving one himself and tried to imagine what that would be like.
Over time, Ben learned that he could find enjoyment by imagining many things. He had never flown on an airplane, or seen a luxury cruise ship, or been inside a limousine, or even eaten in a sit-down restaurant. But he learned that his imagination could create vivid pictures of what such experiences would be like.
* * *
Sonya Carson continued struggling to pay her bills and care for her sons. As the months passed, it became clear that there was no way they could afford to stay in their Detroit home. To save money, Ben's mother decided to move her little family to Boston, Massachusetts. They would live with her older sister and brother-in-law, Ben's Aunt Jean and Uncle William Avery. Sonya explained to the boys that they would rent out their house in Detroit for enough money to cover the monthly mortgage payments. That way, when times got better and she had saved enough money, they could move back into their home on Deacon Street.
Excerpted from Gifted Hands by Gregg Lewis Deborah Shaw Lewis Copyright © 2009 by Gregg Lewis and Deborah Shaw Lewis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 29, 2010
I purchased this book for my 9 year old daughter for a Black History Month assignment. This is a wonderful, well written book. My daughter actually enjoyed reading it and writing about Dr. Carson. His life story is a great lesson for children of all ages. He was a poor child, who struggled in school, but thanks to a good mother and hard work he rose to the top of his field. It also teachers through faith anything is possible. I definitely recommend this book.
11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 10, 2012
I bought this book for my eight year old and he loved it. He didn't want to put it down. He finished it in two sittings. Truly inspiring. I enjoyed it as well! I would definitely recommend this book.
6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 4, 2012
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Posted May 10, 2013
About two years ago i found out that i had adhd.i didnt know what to do.i still dont. If you have any thing to say to hdlp me or to relate with me then just title it Addie0709
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Posted February 21, 2014
I SOO HATE THIS BOOK I HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK IN CLASS
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Posted January 1, 2014
Posted July 12, 2013
Sadly, "boring" is the word my daughter used to describe this required reading. She said that it was repetitive. She was uninterested in reading about many of the same type of surgeries that he did. She also was unimpressed with his background and rise to the top. I feel badly because Ben Carson seems like a very interesting man with an inspirational story.
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Posted July 3, 2012
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