“Here is the treasure chest of the world―the public library, or a bookstore.”
“If we commit ourselves to reading thus increasing our knowledge, only God limits how far we can go in this world.”
“The doors of the world are opened to people who can read.”
“Reading activates and exercises the mind. Reading forces the mind to discriminate. From the beginning, readers have to recognize letters printed on the page, make them into words, the words into sentences, and the sentences into concepts. Reading pushes us to use our imagination and makes us more creatively inclined.”
I must have been about fourteen or fifteen years old when I read Gifted Hands by Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson, if you don't know, is a gifted neurosurgeon―a black man. In 1987, Carson made medical history by being the first surgeon in the world to successfully separate siamese twins (the Binder twins) conjoined at the back of the head (craniopagus twins). Just phenomenal.
I don't remember which came first: my knowledge of this miraculous feat or my reading his book. But when I came in contact with Dr. Carson's story I was mesmerized. So mesmerized in fact that I became obsessed with the steadiness of my hands and regularly tested myself to see how good my eye-hand coordination was. Dr. Carson said in one of his books (by this time, I may have already read Think Big) that eye-hand coordination was a stand-out physical feature that exceptional surgeons must have.
Now let me tell you, my hands are steady as a rock―no nervous shaking or twitches. I played the piano as well and effortlessly mastered the ability to simultaneously pat my head and rub my stomach. So no one could tell me I wasn't a shoe-in for Johns Hopkins University. Oh, yes, after devouring every written piece on Dr. Carson at the time, I was determined that neurosurgery was my destiny.
As you can tell, that destiny has changed drastically―as destinies do as you grow up, many times over in some cases. But it wasn't because I wasn't good at the sciences. I started college as a pre-med biology major and did quite well in both math and science, but then I had a very clear revelation my sophomore year. It wasn't Dr. Carson's occupation that captivated me; it was his full awareness of the value of knowledge, reading, education, and capturing our own unique set of gifts and potential for greatness. What has stuck with me over the years was that his mother made him read a book a week, write a book report on each one, and cut his TV watching. He said these seemingly minor things opened up a completely new world for him. He was no longer failing every class. He was no longer just a kid in the ghetto with no hope. Through reading and writing, his dreams came alive and caused him to believe the impossible for himself―and others.
My sophomore self began to evaluate this, and I took a mental inventory of the gifts that flowed out of me naturally and what was most exciting for me about school. I remembered that the only class I didn't skip― EVER―was English, and I was always writing or reading something. That was my love and passion. It was exciting and effortless. That was when I said, "Screw that! I'm changing my major to English!" (I'm pretty sure those were my exact words.) Why would I not do what I love? People have said to me over the years that I must not have a love for money. I would say, "I love living life to the fullest with as few regrets as possible more than I love money."
Dr. Ben Carson set the stage for me and other black young people (and, really, just people in general) to find value in reading and reading a lot―anything that excites them and causes them to dream, imagine, and THINK BIG about their future and the limitless possibilities in life. He―an exceptional black man and world famous surgeon―is an inspiration and living proof that the simple act of reading can change your life.