When I was growing up, my grandmother, a woman with a minimum of formal education, was my principal teacher and guide. She instilled in me the importance of some core values that have guided me, I hope successfully, through over six decades of life.
I offer for the reader’s consideration, the values passed along to me by my grandmother.
Steal my purse, and you take money that can be replaced. Lie to me and you take something that is very hard to replace – trust. The simple country folk in the small farming community in which I lived seldom used written contracts. A promise and a handshake was all that was usually needed. Their reasoning was this: if I can’t trust a person to keep his word, what good is a piece of paper? Your word was your bond, break that word, and no amount of fancy paper with legal language and fancy seals would make anyone want to do business with you.
Honesty and integrity are inextricably linked. A dishonest person has no integrity. But, it is more than merely telling the truth. Integrity is living the truth. It is doing what is right, even in the face of difficulty. Your reputation is what others think of you, but integrity is what you are; it is the things you do when no one is watching.
By this, I don’t mean the kind of courage of soldiers in battle; this is the courage to do the right thing when the crowd is going the other way. The kind of courage my grandmother taught was that which allows – no compels – you to say the truth even when you know it is unpopular and you will be hated for it. The courage that each person needs is that which allows you to take the road less traveled, to do the thing you’ve never done before, fail, and start again at the beginning.
If you can fill each unforgiving minute with sixty seconds of distance run, if you can pick yourself up after falling, and go on, you will succeed in the end. The hardest job becomes easy when you stick to it, doing it one task at a time until it’s finished. There’s an old saying, ‘quitters never win, and winners never quit.’
Never forget that everything you say or do has an impact on those around you. Feel the pain and suffering of those around you, and do whatever is within your power to ease it. Compassion is not about giving a hand out, but it’s all about giving a hand up.
A life that is guided by these simple principles, regardless of how short, will be a life well lived.