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Read the attached file and write about someone unforgettable, the person and events can be completely fictional.

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There is No Job More Important Than Parenting
The simplest way to say it is this: I believe in my mother. My belief began when I was just a kid. I dreamed
of becoming a doctor.
My mother was a domestic. Through her work, she observed that successful people spent a lot more time
reading than they did watching television. She announced that my brother and I could only watch two to
three pre-selected TV programs during the week. With our free time, we had to read two books each from
the Detroit Public Library and submit to her written book reports. She would mark them up with check
marks and highlights. Years later we realized her marks were a ruse. My mother was illiterate; she had only
received a third-grade education.
Although we had no money, between the covers of those books, I could go anywhere, do anything and be
When I entered high school I was an A-student, but not for long. I wanted the fancy clothes. I wanted to
hang out with the guys. I went from being an A-student to a B-student to a C-student, but I didn’t care. I
was getting the high fives and the low fives and the pats on the back. I was cool.
One night my mother came home from working her multiple jobs and I complained about not having enough
Italian knit shirts. She said, “Okay, I’ll give you all the money I make this week scrubbing floors and
cleaning bathrooms, and you can buy the family food and pay the bills. With everything left over, you can
have all the Italian knit shirts you want.”
I was very pleased with that arrangement but once I got through allocating money, there was nothing left. I
realized my mother was a financial genius to be able to keep a roof over our heads and any kind of food on
the table, much less buy clothes.
I also realized that immediate gratification wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Success required intellectual
I went back to my studies and became an A-student again, and eventually I fulfilled my dream and I
became a doctor.
Over the years my mother’s steadfast faith in God has inspired me, particularly when I had to perform
extremely difficult surgical procedures or when I found myself faced with my own medical scare.
A few years ago I discovered I had a very aggressive form of prostate cancer; I was told it might have
spread to my spine. My mother was steadfast in her faith in God. She never worried. She said that God was
not through with me yet; there was no way that this was going to be a major problem. The abnormality in
my spine turned out to be benign; I was able to have surgery and am cured.
My story is really my mother’s story — a woman with little formal education or worldly goods who used her
position as a parent to change the lives of many people around the globe. There is no job more important
than parenting. This I believe.
The Measure of a Man
For a few years after my stepfather died, I walked through life with the image of him saying good-bye to my
young son, a beloved grandchild. It brought on unexpected bouts of tears, usually when it was least
convenient and most embarrassing. I was shocked at how much I missed him.
He married my widowed mother long after I left home. In the beginning, I was grateful that she had found
someone who would take over worrying about her, but I secretly thought of him as her intellectual inferior. I
am a snob, not an idiot, so I eventually grew to love him as he deserved, but it wasn’t until after his death
that I began to admire him as well.
His name was Kermit and he was completely comfortable sharing his name with the world’s most famous
frog. An ex-Marine and opera buff, he was a man who defied stereotypes. His closest friends included a
college professor, a tire salesman, a thoracic surgeon, and a maintenance man. He accepted people as they
were, and was, in turn, exactly who he seemed to be. He was, according to his professor friend, “A man
without an agenda.”
In his fifties, he became an instructor with what was then called the Disabled Skier Program. Winter
afternoons would find him sporting his signature knickers and snowflake knee socks, guiding a blind girl
down the slope or flying down the mountain in the wake of a one-legged skier, yodeling badly at maximum
volume. When complimented on his service to others, he would say only that he loved to go fast. But I
learned to admire the elegance with which he combined purpose and passion.
He came to Ohio to say good-bye the winter before he died. We pretended that it was a regular visit,
although we all knew that he and my mother never left the mountain during ski season. Except for the
added layers of clothing he wore because the radiation treatments made him constantly cold, he was as he’d
always been, smacking his lips over a few bites of a candy bar and wrapping up the rest for later, and
reading to the bottom of the menu even after ordering just to make sure he hadn’t missed anything
wonderful. Together, we watched the news, visited a local museum, went out for dinner. The day they left,
we had his favorite breakfast. He ate each one of his tiny pancakes with a different flavored dollop of syrup.
“Grandpa, how come you eat your pancakes like that? Don’t you have a favorite?”
“I got so many favorites I can never pick one. There’s alotta great stuff out there, chief.”
I have come to believe in my stepfather’s formula for a rich and happy life: be individual enough to wear
clothing that will embarrass your children. Be open to experiencing everything life has to offer from six
different flavors of pancake syrup to a paddle boat cruise on the Mississippi. And have the grace to help
someone else fly down the mountainside.
It seems to me that the measure of a man is not the car in which he drives through life, but the size of the
hole left behind when he leaves it. I believe that greatness can be accomplished through small as well as
monumental deeds, and that average people—like my stepfather—can make a big difference in small ways.
You Can Get There From Here
On the first day of the semester, I always began my college English classes with the same words: “Ladies
and gentleman, from this room you can go anywhere.”
And then every semester, in the weeks that followed, I would have my heart broken five or six times. The
quiet, studious kid, who scribbled copious notes but disappeared when the paper was due. The young man
who worked the night shift and found he just couldn’t get out of bed for class. The ones who ran out of
money or succumbed to their addictions or didn’t want to be there in the first place.
A colleague took me aside during my first year and said, “Look, this is community college. Lots of kids bail.
It’s not your fault.”
I encountered less heartbreak when I added some hours tutoring in the college’s Writing Center. If too many
of my “real” students disappointed me by giving up, maybe this assembly-line approach would save me. In
and out students came, wanting only an hour of my time, just a little slice of my expertise. “Can you help
me fix this?” they would say, and I would, and then the next person would sit down.
Emily appeared at the center doorway one morning, approached me cautiously, and–barely audible–asked
me to read her essay. “It needs help,” she said. She was right. It did. But just below the surface, it was
unmistakable to me: here was a talented writer waiting for her moment. The next week she showed up
Our first months working together were often bumpy. She could be too easily frustrated at her pace. She
railed at time wasted, and how much she had to learn. I danced between challenging her and not
overwhelming her. Every week, there she’d be at the door. And then she’d step in and get to work.
First, she nailed English 101, then 102. Only later did she tell me that when we met, her entire college
transcript consisted of five F’s, a vestige from her first try at being a student, a semester she fled in
frustration or fear or back to demons I didn’t know. Professors started taking an interest in her now. They
came bearing advice and resources, and Emily kept getting up in the morning and coming to school. She
made the honors program the next year and graduated. She earned a scholarship to a four-year college and
there she thrived. No one was surprised when she was accepted into an English PhD program at an
esteemed university.
Every once in a while she would send a note about her progress, her sentences leaping across the page,
breathless. She landed the only teaching job she wanted– at the community college where it all came to life
for her.
I believe you can get there from here. And I bet that’s just how Emily begins every semester with her
My Iraqi Sons
This I believe: As humans we share universal commonalities far greater than the things that separate us.
My family recently hosted two teenage boys from Iraq. We felt a pull toward this opportunity even though
we’d never hosted. This meant debunking my young boys’ beds and displacing them for six nights.
Like other host families, we wondered what the teens would be like. What would they want to eat? Where
would they want to go?
What would they think of us?
For Americans, Iraq holds shards of images: missiles in the night, kidnappings, ongoing terrorism. Arguably,
there is no other country that carries more negative connotations to the American mind, and one has to
assume negative impressions run deep in the minds of Iraqis.
Yet here we were, opening our home, our lives, and our four children to two teenage boys from this volatile
The day I met them, one of them called me Dad. To them, we were Mom and Dad – their American Mom
and Dad.
Over the next six days we learned they liked waffles. And pizza. And ice cream. One had a sweet tooth and
liked blackberry jam on English muffins. The other loved to play drums and bought four sets of drumsticks
from the local music store.
They were two of the most polite teenagers we’d ever met, insisting we walk through the door first, always
helping us bring in things from the car, and yes – even taking care of their younger “brothers.”
We took them bowling. They enjoyed my son’s basketball game at a local community center. They drove a
John Deere tractor at my in-law’s house far older than the war that has caused so much misunderstanding
between our countries.
Three days before they left, my wife started getting misty-eyed when she hugged them goodbye in the
The day we took them to the airport, it was as hard as we’d imagined. We wanted to keep them. My 15year-old, highly sociable daughter cried and cried. And with a nod to small miracles, my gruff 12-year-old
son hugged his new brothers.
These boys had become part of our family in only six days.
So what did we learn?
That teenagers are teenagers no matter what country they call home. They’re smart and silly, weak and
strong, tired and eternally energetic – all at once.
That you can connect and care for people you don’t know in a tiny window of time, regardless of
And maybe most importantly, that the assumptions you make about a people or a place are likely wrong,
especially if they’re based on a single lens of information.
As a family we’ve chosen never to accept limited views. We won’t let others tell us what to think or believe.
It’s better to take the risk and learn for yourself.
Be willing to see the best in others. If you’re willing, you’ll see the best – in them and in yourself.
Moving Beyond Stereotypes
I live in a world and I am part of a society that has the lowest expectations for me. Images on the 6 o’clock
news serve as a daily reminder that black males are to be feared and would mostly likely do harm to
someone. I read how I would be lucky to live to the ripe age of 30 and chances are I might have been in jail.
I am the father of several children with little or no means or interest to care for them. I am a black man in
America. Nevertheless, here is the truth.
I am 49 years old, hold a master’s degree, and work as a nurse practitioner. I have never been in jail and
have no children. The truth is that each day I want to be an example of good humanity. Despite the images
and assumptions about me provided by the media, I have learned a great lesson that I carry with me each
day when I introduce myself with “Hello, my name is Chris, and I am the nurse who will be taking care of
About 15 years ago, I was working in an intensive care unit in Dallas, Texas. I was assigned to care for a
60-year-old Caucasian male who had suffered a heart attack. He was married and had children but seemed,
at least to me, uncomfortable with me taking care of him. His condition was very stable, and he was due to
be discharged from the ICU in a day or two. Each time I entered his room to gather vital signs or administer
medications, he kept staring at me in an odd yet familiar way.
When I moved to Texas and began working in my profession, oftentimes, I would have trouble convincing
people that I was a registered nurse. Some would assume I was a housekeeper or an orderly and assign me
tasks common to those positions. Often I would hear “I have never been taken care of by a black nurse
before.” Well, I was sure that this scenario was more of the same.
When I entered his room again to administer medications and to ask if he was having any pain or
discomfort, he continued with the familiar stare. I decided to remove the awkwardness of the situation by
asking him if there was something he wanted to ask me or say to me, and he said:
“I was just thinking that I had a son who died when he was 18 years old, and his name was Christopher.
Today, he would be about your age, he was tall, he was about your height, and he wanted to be a nurse. I
was wondering if he would have been the kind of nurse that you are and where he would be working and
what he would be doing. I have not thought much about this until I met you this morning.”
Not prepared for this, I asked how he died and how many years has it been. I then excused myself to go to
the bathroom to cry.
This story serves to remind me that the world is not always cold and mean—that many things are not
always as they seem. I believe that there are people who can see beyond color and stereotype to see the
person. It serves as a reminder to me to enter each situation as a unique experience and to examine my
own stereotypes and assumptions.
I believe that others have already defined much of who I am supposed to be, and I have spent a great deal
of time running from that definition. I believe that there comes a time in everyone’s life when he or she
must speak up and address stereotypes and assumptions because they are easier to believe than the work it
takes to discover the uniqueness of the individual. That time began for me 15 years ago, and I am dedicated
to being a better human being today than I was yesterday. If I begin with myself then I have the power to
affect all that I meet.
That experience instilled in me the belief that if I take the time to listen, people will lower that shield that
often takes days, weeks, and for some, years to lower and share in a way that changes the listener. I
believe that each person I take care of has a unique story to tell, and if I am focused and ready to listen
without assumption and stereotype, they just might share their story.
My Black Mother
I am a white woman in my mid-sixties. As a young girl, I didn’t know much about the Great Depression,
except that our family lost many material things, including our house and car. When I was nearly four years
old, my mother “left” me to go to work, and that is when I met Nellie.
Nellie was a petite black woman who was very tidy and fastidious and always dressed nicely. I thought she
must be far wealthier than we, as there was a certain proper air about her, and I reckoned that the very
small gold earrings in her pierced earlobes were a clincher for her status. She was a reserved woman who
meant business when she spoke. I saw her as having a stern demeanor, but she was also caring.
My older sister and two brothers were already of school age, so for one full year, I was alone with Nellie
from the time my mother left in the morning to the time my mother returned home.
The next school year I started kindergarten. Each day Nellie walked me to school and was there to meet me
when school was out at noon. She gently held my hand as we silently walked home. By now I felt more
comfortable with her as our routine was firmly established. I did, however, notice one curious fact and so I
asked my mother, “Why am I the only one with a black mother?” My mother then explained that she was
still my only mother and that Nellie was simply taking care of me while she worked during the day. I felt
reassured that I had not been abandoned and that I still only had one mother.
As children are wont to do, I began learning from the other children at school, picking up on their sayings
and mimicking what I would hear. One afternoon while Nellie brushed my hair, I very proudly recited a
rhyme I had just learned: “eeny, meeny, miney, moe, crack a nigger on the toe. If he hollers, make him pay
fifty dollars every day.”
The words were meaningless to me; I was just proud of my memorization. Nellie said, “What did you say?” I
naively repeated the rhyme. Again, she asked the same question. By now I sensed something was wrong
but I didn’t know what. I repeated the rhyme a little more slowly, thinking as I went along, indeed,
wondering what I had said that caused Nellie’s strong reaction. As I reached the words “crack a nigger,” I
said them out loud but then stopped. I felt embarrassed as I recognized it was the derogatory word “nigger”
that was hurtful. As my back was to Nellie, she stepped to my side and with a hard stare she icily said,
“Don’t ever say that again.” I sat quietly, digesting what had transpired. I felt a bit scared, and I also felt
bad that I had hurt her feelings.
It was that short dialogue between the two of us that was my first lesson in racism. It was also the first time
I understood how words could hurt another. My lesson was learned not by any diatribe or lecture. Nellie was
wise. She made me aware of my words by calling me to think . . . to think of what I was saying and how it
was affecting her.
Nellie was as steady and dependable as the sunrise. She continued to care for me and worked with my
family until I entered the fourth grade. I am forever grateful for her good care of me.
I believe I was profoundly influenced by my black mother, who taught me the importance of thinking and of
weighing my words. I do not know where Nellie went after leaving our family. I know that, forever, she is in
my memory, and is still a part of my heart and being.

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