No Easy Lesson

16 Apr

Recently, Benjamin Carson has been in the news. The poem his mother had him read when he was feeling put upon hit home with me. Ben Carson had all the odds stacked against him. He was born to a mother who was married at thirteen and had only a third grade education. But as all good mothers do, she wanted a better life for her two boys. The boys were going down an all-too familiar path. Bad grades in school, bad influences on the street, bad habits at home. To make matters worse, Ben was convinced he was dumb.

His mother knew better. She turned off the TV, handed the boys books, and told them that they had to read the book and write a report for her. At first, he hated reading. It was a waste of time. But his mother was stronger willed, and he kept reading. When the boys gave the reports to their mother, she’d go over them, making little check marks, and highlighting areas. What the boys didn’t know was that their mother couldn’t read.

It didn’t take him long to realize that he could go anywhere, be anyone, and experience wonderful adventures all through the pages of books.

She also taught them self-reliance. When they’d complain that this wasn’t right or that person wasn’t fair, she’d have them read the following poem.

You Have Yourself To Blame

by Mayme White Miller

You Have Yourself To Blame

for disgracing your own name.

Thinking it’s laborious

meaning it’ll be victorious.

Always pretending to be cool,

so that you’ll be popular in school.

Never caring about others

and trying to be tough to your brothers.

Being in so much fame,

never knew something that came.

I’m looking at you now,

wondering why and how.

Now you’re on your own,

with no one to show.

You’re alone in the dark,

left there in the park.

I hope you now know or conjecture

what you should’ve a long time ago that

You Have Yourself To Blame.

And what became of this boy? He attended Yale and University of Michigan Medical School. He’s a Professor of Neurosurgery, Oncology, Plastic Surgery, and Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University. He won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. He is the only Neurosurgeon ever to part twins who were conjoined at the head. And as if that doesn’t keep him busy enough, he has written four best sellers, Gifted Hands (an autobiography), The Big Picture, Take the Risk, and Think Big.

When I think the publishing business isn’t fair, I look at the poem on my wall. After all, it’s up to me. I hope Dr. Ben Carson’s story and the poem are as cathartic for you as they were for me.


Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Idaho, inspiration, poetry, power, Psychology


14 responses to “No Easy Lesson

  1. Liz Flaherty

    April 16, 2013 at 7:08 AM

    Excellent, excellent post! Thanks for sharing that.

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 16, 2013 at 9:02 AM

      Thanks. It’s something I need to remind myself.

  2. Judith Keim

    April 16, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    Peggy, Thanks so much! It’s wonderful and powerful to know that the “blame” in publishing should be your own.

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 16, 2013 at 9:04 AM

      There is also the lottery factor. Getting to the right person, on the right day, and you have what they want. But if you keep getting your stuff out there it will happen.

  3. Stephanie Berget (@StephanieBerget)

    April 16, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    Thank you for posting this. I hadn’t heard this story before and I’ll pass it on. Great for taping to the wall in my office.

  4. Corina Mallory

    April 16, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    I love this. It’s a difficult balancing act between claiming responsibility for our own choices and how they affect our lives and beating ourselves up unmercifully when things don’t work out. I truly believe that a satisfying life is found when we can do the first and limit the second. We have to control the things we can, and understand the world doesn’t owe us a fair shot, an easy road, or a happy ending. That’s what fiction is for.

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 16, 2013 at 9:49 AM

      Exactly! When things don’t go our way instead of beating ourselves to a pulp we need to stop, and figure out what we can do to fix it or deal with the situation.

  5. Janis McCurry

    April 16, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    Coming to you from Madison, WI. Nice thought, although it gives me a measure of satisfaction to blame the misguided decisions of editors! 😉

  6. marsharwest

    April 16, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Excellent post and good comments, y’all. We’re our own worst enemy in writing. No we can’t control what agents/editor think of our work. We can determine to not give up, to study and develop our craft, and to keep on keeping on.

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 16, 2013 at 3:09 PM

      We can only do what we can do. Keep on keeping on!

  7. Lynn Mapp

    April 17, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    The Ben Carson story is uplifting. It’s been made into a movie. We just need to remember the words to that poem. Very uplifting.

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 18, 2013 at 7:55 AM

      It’s always great when someone over comes the odds. It really helps when you’ve got a great mom in your corner.

  8. maryvine

    April 21, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    This is beautiful. Thanks, Peggy.


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