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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

What it means to me to be a good man: A tribute to a single mother

<rted thinking about this topic, I focused on male role models who I thought possessed qualities of goodness. However, as I thought about the qualities that made these men good men, they were the same qualities that I have come to admire from my mother, which led me to think that we should be asking what does it mean to be a good human being? We should not differentiate between being a good man or woman because it limits the roles of individuals.

On a warm summer morning sixteen years ago, my father announced that he was leaving my mother, sister and me to go to the United States. It was not his departure that bothered my mother; but rather his lack of trust in her. He believed that she would tell others, who would inform the corrupt Guinean government. He left her to provide and care for my nine-month-old sister and me. For the next seven years she worked as a teacher earning a meager salary of twenty five dollars a month, which she used to sustain us as well as my father’s extended family.

We joined my father in the United States in 2000, and my parents divorced five years later. This time my mother was stuck in an unfamiliar land with four children to sustain and once again without my father’s financial support. After the separation, she attended English courses and nursing school during the week and worked sixteen hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays. She also made sure that my little sister made it to school and that my little brother was in the best care while we were all in school. Although she was not proficient in English at the time, she helped us with our studies at home, especially with math. Since the divorce, she has helped me get to college, bought a new house and is now finishing a new home in Guinea.

In her journey she displayed courage, love and sacrifice by leaving the comfort of her country, friends and family to accompany her children to a foreign country with a man she did not trust. She was also courageous by going through with a divorce, which is viewed as taboo in my culture.

She showed determination, dedication and drive by making sure that her children succeeded academically and socially. She taught us to be honest, respectful, kind, responsible, mentally strong and hard-working. She taught by setting an example. She attended school, maintained a job and built social networks that helped her become the successful woman and mother she is today.

My mother also demonstrated balance by juggling work, school and family. Her versatility is one of the qualities that impresses me the most. She has been able to show her children that anyone can adapt to any environment; but most importantly she has demonstrated to me that no matter what my challenges are, I should never abandon my family and my goals. For my sisters, she has demonstrated that she does not need a man to be successful or to validate her beauty.

These qualities that my mother possesses are what it means to be a good human being. The male role models in my life have contributed greatly to my definition of a good man. However, the qualities that I admire in these men were qualities that I first admired in my mother. She has had the first and greatest influence in shaping my image of the great man that I aspire to become.

-Oumar Diallo is a second-year student

This essay is part of an ongoing series established by Chase Kimball. If you would like to have your own reflections published, please respond to the question “What does it mean to you to be a good man?” in an essay of 400-800 words and e-mail it to [email protected].

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