A Legacy Of Integrity

Sunitha - West Chester, Ohio
Entered on October 25, 2005
Age Group: 30 - 50
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Integrity: My father’s life could be summed up in this word — a simple word, derived from integer, meaning one or whole. My father himself marched to his own drummer, a steady march, the cadence still ringing in my ears. I believe this is my father’s legacy to me. I have learned through hard lessons that integrity must drive my life. This means that I must keep my word, do what I say, follow through when I say I will, whether or not I feel like doing so. It also means that everyday I must make choices based on how I want to live my life and be vigilant about the “supposed to” choices I hear screaming in my ear.

Integrity: A word drummed into me hour after hour, day after day till I was sick of hearing it. One day I decided to rebel. In my heart I knew this was wrong but what was I supposed to do when I wasn’t given pocket money like my friends. I collected change lying around in the house and treated myself and a few friends to Coke—the elixir of teenage life in India. I told my friends that my parents won’t miss the change and of course, they’d never find out. A few days later I came home to find my parents waiting to talk to me. My mother had a lot to say and she said it loudly and dramatically. My father stood behind her, not saying a word. His silence screamed the word integrity at me. Later, he asked me whether I believed that we got to choose our character and wondered aloud whether I could commit to becoming the person he thought I was capable of becoming. A soft voice. One sentence. A small moment. A big idea.

Integrity: Very soon this word followed me like a shadow, clinging to every pore in my body and refusing to leave even when brighter and better things beckoned. I tried many times to shrug this word off, bury it deep in a closet, and even deny its insidious existence in my life. Every time I thought I succeeded in ignoring it, my father’s voice would steer me back with a whisper, forcing me to do the hard work and ask myself how I wanted to celebrate the gifts God had given me.

Integrity: Now, my children roll their eyes when they hear me asking them to listen to their inner voices. They listen with half an ear when I talk about the cost of dishonesty in work, school, relationships and family. But I know I must talk to them. I am confident that they are absorbing my words and stories as I share why being one with your values is the only way to live a productive life. This I believe is my father’s legacy to me and my children.