This is Molly.
Walking down the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I discovered her sitting at a small card table at the foot of the stairs with a sign advertising her work: poetry for strangers. (she likes e. e. cummings.)
“I’d like a poem,” I say.
“on what subject?” she asks.
“what about integrity?”
“The importance of integrity,” I say.
She thinks for a split second before touching the keys of a manual typewriter (a rarity to see a college student working on such an antique form of communication.)
After a couple of keystrokes, she rips the small card from the machine.
“typo,” she says.
“No, no,” I tell her. “Leave the typos.”
She types. Stops. Thinks. Stops. Thinks some more and . . . she’s finished. She takes a last look before handing me her work.
(I’ll come back to this in a moment.)
Integrity is a word we just don’t hear much these days, much less demonstrated. We seem to be caught in an echo chamber of blame and anger. We talk too much and listen too little. “There’s a hole in the moral ozone,” ethicist Michael Josephson writes, “and it’s getting bigger.”
Integrity is vital in all our relationships. It’s about consistency between what we know to be right and acting so. It’s about moral wholeness; embracing universal ethical values: treating others with respect, honesty, acting responsibly, caring about others; being our best selves; and when pressured, having the courage to stand by our principles even when it costs more than we want to pay, and . . . being a role model of ethical conduct to those around us.
Lincoln’s nickname, “Honest Abe,” was not a creation of some clever PR team. Long before he was president, he earned the respect of many as a scrupulously honest lawyer.
Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, fought for the right of education for all women. After surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban, Yousafzai became an activist for human rights.
Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson sums up integrity like this:
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”
Molly summed it up this way: