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Poverty is a State of Mind

Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary (2017)

Poverty is all a State of Mind

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson generated a lot of criticism for his statement that “poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind.” He elaborated that people with the “right mind set” can lose everything and recover. Carson went on to say, “You take somebody with the wrong mind-set, you can give them everything in the world (and) they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.” That is exactly the message of this Designer of Reality concept. It’s all in your mind and imagination. Whatever you “believe” about your world will always become the “reality” of your world.

Dr. Carson took a lot of flak for that particular comment in our currently judgmental, very sensitive “politically correct” society. The fact that Carson was part of the President Donald Trump Whitehouse team – not thought by many to have a particularly compassionate nature – added fuel to the fire. While the final verdict will be up to historians working with their own logic, I think Ben Carson’s appointment will be one of the better things that President Trump was responsible for. I think the reasons Carson was chosen may have had little to do with a belief that he was going to be a dynamic leader and work to do great things. The Whitehouse probably thought selecting a conservative African American on the Trump team who happened to be a brilliant doctor and had even garnered considerable support during the primary elections would be a real asset from a PR vantage point. Not everyone would like the choice of course but in trying to present and inclusive and carrying government, selecting an African American as Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary seems a very Trumpian move. President Trump clearly knows everything is about perception and what people believe. He knows “reality” for most people is all about controlling the storyline. The fact that he had actually picked probably one of the BEST people available for U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary probably had little to do with the decision. In fact if Trump had understood what a principled individual Dr. Ben Carson was, Trump would have probably shied away from him. Ben Carson is his own man and while his is playing the role cast upon him I don’t believe he will be too concerned with making the President happy if he is pushed to do something he does not believe to be right.

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Carson briefly and hear him speak at a Habitat for Humanity celebration for a new community being developed in South Florida. Here’s a press release I published after the event:
On Friday, March 24, 2017, Secretary Ben Carson of United States Urban Housing and Development joined a determined group of our community supporters in a private community education and awareness celebration at the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church to salute the launch of the largest Habitat for Humanity community ever built in Broward County, “A Rick Case Habitat Community.” Nationwide, the need for affordable housing remains critical, with 1 in 6 families paying more than 50% of their income on housing. Studies indicate that Broward County and the South Florida market rank #1 as the most cost burdened housing market in the nation.

Habitat for Humanity empowers families to build strength, stability and self-reliance through home ownership with decent, affordable housing. Habitat is a hand up, not a hand out. Today’s presentation focused on the efforts of Rick and Rita Case along with other donors to help build a Habitat community of 77 homes in Pompano Beach.
“We can’t thank Rita and Rick Case enough for their overwhelming support,” said Habitat Broward’s CEO & Executive Director Nancy Robin. It is expected that the construction process itself will inject over $13 million into the Broward County economy and the community will generate approximately $200,000 in property tax annually. For more information contact Sandra@npobroward.org or visit http://www.CCBroward.org.

The presentation to which Dr. Carson was a featured guest and speaker was convened to thank the many people that had made the new community possible – particularly Rick and Rita Case who had a very firm desire to help less fortunate members of our human family using the wealth that had come from years of hard work in the business of automobile dealerships.

What most impressed me at that presentation was the compassion, genuine interest and caring support expressed by Dr. Carson. This was not a big event in the national arena that circumstance has placed him in but I think he was there because the methods and philosophy of Habitat for Humanity so closely matched his ideas for how best to help move people out of a “mindset of poverty” and reach for the American Dream. Habitat for Humanity has nothing to do with “entitlement” or putting people on the dole. This is about empowering people to get on a path toward realizing their full potential. The future families living in this and other Habitat communities will have some financial assistance but they will also have skin in the game with mortgages and taxes to pay. These families will also be involved in the physical building process of the community armed with hammers and paintbrushes. This is a vision that Dr. Carson can hopefully promote and lend support to so that we can really change people’s lives on a national scale, community by community.

To fully appreciate statements like, “poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind”, made by Dr. Carson, knowing a little more of his story is useful. He did not come from a wealthy suburban family. He spent most of his youth in Detroit. His dad worked in an automobile plant and had married his mother when she was 13. When Ben was five his mom found out that her husband had been previously married and never divorced which eventually led to their separation. Life was not easy for the family but as Dr. Carson shared in his talk, one thing his mother did was really life changing. She forced her two sons to read and report on two books a week. This experience opened up a world of possibilities for young Ben Carson. Noting his interest in the subject, his brother got him a subscription to Psychology Today for his 13th birthday and it seems likely that gift set him on the path of science and medicine. He had to overcome other challenges along the way but through them all what became very clear to him was that we are each responsible for our own destiny and most important, it is all about choices, not circumstances.

Now back to that statement that had so many people thinking he had clearly showed himself as an anti-entitlement Trump Republican, “Poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind… You take somebody with the wrong mind-set, you can give them everything in the world (and) they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”

The common belief that is more acceptably to many is that poor people are really “victims” of an uncaring society and a life they had little choice about. For all of those who were aghast by Dr. Carson’s proclamation, it is simply because they lack an accurate understanding of how the world works. Mr. Carson is right on the mark in his statements and shows he has a real appreciation for how people’s lives are shaped. What is somewhat unfortunate is that he had the opportunity to continue the line of reasoning with a vision of how to create a new reality. He could have used Habitat for Humanity as an example of a more enlightened approach for getting long term results. Poverty is the result of a state-of-mind but the challenge is that if poverty and pain and sadness are all you see around you, it takes a great deal of determination, inspiration and insight to rise above it. Whatever on believes to be their reality is always a self-fulfilling prophesy thanks to karma and the Law of Attraction. This is why the loss of HOPE is so devastating. Hope is the mission of Habitat for Humanity with their program based on empowering individuals and building self-esteem.
So I encourage Dr. Carson and others now and in the future who share his belief that they will promote empowering “hope” filled opportunities to explain concepts like, “poverty is a state of mind”. The start of the solution to any problem is to inspire hope and a sense of self worth for the individual. This is why the Habitat for Humanity approach is so valuable and I am sure this is the real reason Dr. Carson made the trip to South Florida.

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