What do these two men have in common? After reading about them both recently, I’d have to say: not too much.
Like many of our readers, I became aware of Dr. Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins University when my brother posted his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast this past February. Soon after, I purchased his autobiography, Gifted Hands, for my e-reader. It’s a fast read and a fascinating story which I’ve been enjoying in the stolen moments I’ve had for reading this week.
[For an even briefer bio of this remarkable man, read here.]
Ben Carson and his big brother, Curtis, grew up in inner-city Detroit, raised from an early age by their divorced mother. Carson sings her praises for keeping both her sons on the straight and narrow path, stressing a strong work ethic, faith in God, dedication to their studies and a belief that they could achieve anything with enough hard work. Carson, who struggled with reading in elementary school, began to excel more and more in middle and high school, graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and then was accepted at Johns Hopkins for medical school.
Carson became the chief pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins at the age of 33, an unprecedented appointment at such a young age. There, he has successfully pioneered controversial surgical procedures. These include, in 1985, the hemispherectomy (removal of one half of the brain), which is now indicated for up to a third of all severely epileptic children. In 1987, Dr. Carson led a team who successfully separated twins conjoined at the head. [Read here for a compelling account of a similar surgery Dr. Carson did in 2004.]
Dr. Carson, happily married since 1975, with three sons, gives frank and frequent credit to God’s grace in his life, stating his dedication to prayer before and during every surgery, and maintaining a humility which is more impressive as I’ve learned more of the plethora of honors he has achieved in his career. Carson and his family, like his mother, are devout Christians of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination.
One quote of his which stood out for me came after the ground-breaking first hemispherectomy. He was invited on the television talk show circuit, but declined, for several reasons. Besides not wanting to be known as “the celebrity doctor”, Carson observed:
“The danger is that if you hear how wonderful you are often enough, you begin to believe it no matter how hard you try to resist.”
With this quote fresh in my mind, I was struck by a recent article at Acculturated.com, one of my favorite blogs to read. Bryan Dik wrote on April’s perennial sports figure, Tiger Woods, and his ritual quest for yet another win at the Masters Tournament. Since December 2009, when the world’s greatest golfer became just another celebrity caught with his pants down, Woods has maintained a lower profile (and a much lower annual income). But that could be turning around now, in spite of his ruined marriage and tarnished reputation. He’s back on a winning streak, and celebrated by selling his face to Nike:
Really, Tiger? Bryan Dik commented:
Public response has been divided, but many have expressed disgust, and Nike’s ridiculous insistence that the slogan is merely a nod to his athletic performance, nothing more, is making it worse. Rick Reilly wrote a scathing column that encourages us to ask Lance Armstrong, Pete Rose, Joe Paterno’s family, or Tiger’s ex-wife Elin Nordegren, whether winning takes care of everything.
Sounds to me like Tiger continues to believe his own good press, despite the dark and quiet years just past. Ironic isn’t it? Tiger makes his living putting a little ball into a little hole, while Carson makes little holes in people’s brains so that they can keep on living.
EACH man is undeniably at the top of his chosen field. But at a time when solid role models for young men are sorely needed, the ones like Woods who choose the limelight have a crass and carpe diem message: Winning will solve all your problems and make you really happy.
While a real hero like Dr. Ben Carson (who performs hundreds of life-saving surgeries each year) eschews the public eye much of the time, so that he won’t be tempted to think he’s better than he is.
I suppose that’s why HE IS a real hero in my book. And a real winner.
This is what the Lord says:
“The wise man must not boast in his wisdom;
the strong man must not boast in his strength;
the wealthy man must not boast in his wealth.
But the one who boasts should boast in this,
that he understands and knows Me—
that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
–Jeremiah 9:23-24 (HCSB)