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What is integrity?

bclakeA writer is a strange creature. We put some words down on a piece of paper, or into the computer, and send them into the world – but then they vanish. It’s a bit like dropping a penny down a well. What is going to happen then?

Will anyone read your precious words that you’ve labored over, tried to make beautiful, or useful in some way to your fellow human beings, tried to infuse with your own unique spirit? Will anyone even care? The words disappear into the ether and you carry on.

Then one day you get an answer from out of that invisible ether -- and it puts a glow in your heart, a light begins to shine.

You get, for example – from out of the blue – a response like this:

“Thanks, Christopher! Love your article as always. It is like a fresh breeze in the morning, uplifting my spirit and reminding me of the beauty of being alive. Thanks again, and I will always wait anxiously for your new articles.”

This most welcome message came in my mailbox yesterday and of course I called JoAnn to take a look. “Just a few words,” I said to her. “But what a difference it makes. Just to know that someone appreciates what you are doing.”

We need each other in this world. There’s a kind of reciprocity that is required. It’s a paradox, in a way. We have to take responsibility for ourselves and give our best no matter what – yet because we are part of a larger whole, there is an intangible but very real need to be nourished and supported by others.

Sometimes reciprocity comes in remarkable ways and from very unexpected places. I read a story in the local paper this morning about Greg Mortenson, author of the best-selling book, Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson told a meeting of students at Colorado State University how he was kidnapped by the Taliban for eight days in 1996 while working to promote education and literacy in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ominous hardly begins to describe the fix Mortensen was in. But he saw a potential way out of his situation – to make friends with his captors.

He didn’t see them as the enemy. He didn’t see them as stupid. He showed respect. He asked his captors to teach him about Islam and the Koran. He appealed to their pride in their sons by telling them his wife at home was seven months pregnant with their son.

What happened was that the Taliban let him go. “It’s very basic,” Mortenson told the students. “It’s about respect. It’s about human dignity. It’s about listening.”

The bonds of respect and friendship, trust and humility that bind humanity have become very frayed in this world. But it takes so little to let them be renewed.

It takes so little to affirm our part in a larger tapestry of life and purpose rooted in the one timeless truth at the core of us all. Affirming this connection, making it real -- in large ways and small ways -- is surely what integrity is.

But integrity has many facets. How do you see integrity?  What does integrity mean to you?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Corinne Rodrigues September 2, 2009 at 8:13 am

Just stopped to tell you how much you are appreciated. I just got a copy of Three Cups of Tea and am waiting to read it – you’ve just spurred me on to read it faster!
Do stop by at my blog too and let me know what you think.
Take care, Christopher.
C

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