This I Believe

Carissa - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on May 17, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: integrity
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What You Do When No One is Looking

I believe in integrity. From kindergarten to high school, I have come across a number of sticky situations that question my values. Yet, through it all, one thing remains the same, one value has always stood strong: integrity. Some people will define integrity as a moral one chooses to live by, while others define it as purely self-pride in oneself. I believe integrity can be summed up in one simple phrase: what you do when no one is looking.

What would you do if you were to find a million dollars in cash on a bench in the park? Every human has undoubtedly felt the urge to take it without hesitation. After all, who is there to stop you? Nobody but yourself, along with that side serving of integrity. In my eyes, a person with that self-power to do what is right will seldom be disappointed with themselves in life. There is one person that will always be there in the end, watching your every move: yourself.

The year before I began high school, my older sister began her four years on the emotional roller coaster they call the United States Naval Academy. I was interested to see exactly what she was getting herself into. I would think to myself, “Wow, the military. Cool. I bet that is hard.” But I didn’t realize that the physical and academic aspects of it were not the only hard parts. One of the first things the Academy instills in each Midshipmen is integrity. Each person is responsible for his or her own actions, even when nobody is looking. To stress this point, they placed a $100 dollar bill in the middle of a frequently used hallway. Students came and went, and at the end of the day the money lay exactly where it was originally placed. This is integrity. Every student had the decency to believe that the owner of the money was on his or her way back to retrieve it. I was so entranced by this complete display of character, that I am now counting down the days until I myself will begin the journey as a Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy. I will continue my journey as a person of integrity, now for a different, greater purpose.

As I get ready for my Induction Day, I think back to that $100 dollar bill. It takes a lot of strength to walk by that bill and know that you did the right thing. In the end, it is not what people see you do that matters; it is what they do not see you do that makes a difference in life.