Where is Integrity
When I was a kiddo, I hung out with a friend, who had some friends who stole boxes of Humpty Dumpty chips off the back of a truck. Remember Humpty Dumpty? When my friend shared this event with me, she also gave me I some of the stolen chips. While on the landline phone chatting with my friend, my father picked up the extension and overheard the conversation. I was called into the living to stand in front of my father and tell the whole story.
I was grounded, no tv, no time with the friend ever again. Then my father stood, told me to get my coat and money I had earned from my paper route. Dad and I got in the car, and I was taken to the Police station. I had to stand in front of a police officer and tell the story. Then, even despite the officer telling my father it was not necessary, I paid over money to compensate for the losses of the truck company. Not just for the few bags of chips I had, for more than that.
Like any young girl in junior high, I was ashamed. I was mortified standing in front of police officer and telling what had happened. I was resentful for having to pay money over for the actions of two young boys who actually did the stealing. I was very unhappy with being grounded. And with having to explain to my friend why we could no longer be friends.
I am certain many reading this would say my father was no mean. I am certain many believe I was not to blame and should not have taken such a strong punishment. As the young girl, I would have agreed with you. Yet it is important in this world where so many of us are being forced to recognize how our individual choices are impacting others, the very real lessons in my father’s choices.
My father made me take responsibility… not just for MY part, but for my silence about what others had done wrong. I learned to take responsibility, I learned silence about the misdeeds made me just as guilty, I learned that just a slight distance between my actions and another’s did not make me innocent or not responsible. Consider our lives in a pandemic where not wearing a masks means we could pass along a virus deadly to some. Consider our lives in a world where landlords raising rent and trying to make more than just a living are forcing many out into the cold. Understanding that what I do impacts others changes the choices I make.
I learned to choose my friends wisely. I came to understand that we each have our own tolerance for dishonest action. We all have our own tolerance for risk. We all have our own tolerance for side stepping our responsibility. I learned it was better to be alone than choose someone with whom my values did not align.
I learned my father was a man of great integrity and honesty. I admired him even as I was angry about being punished. Even as I felt he was being a little too strict in doling out the punishment. And now, many years later, I recognize the power of such a strong message. I remember it. I am not a person screaming about “my right” when it comes to rent control, mask mandates, and vaccine passports. I understand the power of my father’s message, ‘it is not all about me and my needs, wants, and desires. I cannot separate my choices from the repercussions of my actions.’
I believe this is a powerful message the world needs.
My dad died two years ago. He died with dignity. It was always important to me that he was proud of me. I am not sure I always made him proud, but I do know I learned many great lessons from his example. That makes his life a legacy.