Each month at the Senior Care Community where I serve as Chaplain, we focus attention on an essential value to uphold as staff and residents. This March the value proposition around which we rally is integrity. We raise questions like, “What do we think, say and do that gives identity to integrity in our community?” and “Do we practice what we preach?” or “Do we talk the talk, but, more importantly, walk the walk of integrity?”
To put some “flesh on the bones” of this value proposition, I went looking for some quotes, but instead, found a 19th century American Rancher from the Old West named M.H. McKee who lived and breathed integrity to the point that he gave identity to the word and the word gave identity to him.
His most famous quote…“Wisdom is knowing the right path to take. Integrity is taking it.” His life story took him down several paths from steel worker to prospector, orchard grower to cattleman, before he took the right one. Over 130 years later his ranch is still there in western Colorado near Collbran in Mesa County along Kimball Creek and Kimball Creek Trail #532. Next time I travel that way, I’d like to take a hike on that numbered trail and ponder another one of his quotes: “Integrity is one of several paths. It distinguishes itself from the others because it is the right path, and the only one upon which you will never get lost.”
Take a walk around our own Eden Prairie City Hall and you’ll find “integrity” posted on the values wall with its invitation to “demonstrate character and honor”. What citizen wouldn’t want to live in community that cherishes honesty, uprightness, ethics, morals, decency, fairness, trustworthiness, etc. etc. all compounded and integrated in everyone’s daily dealings? Can we all agree these are attributes that our community and state and country and world yearn to experience, see and hear in the news and speak together along the paths we hike every day?
Then I was walking the hall of our Central Middle School this week when my eye was drawn to a prominently displayed wall poster that read “You’ve gotta be real. Stay true to your word. Take care of your family. If you do that, you can be proud. Have integrity.” What can we learn about integrity from adolescents gathered at school? The answer is everything! It’s a value for living that spans the generations from the school house to the senior residence to every household!
Holy Scripture in the Old Testament is filled with references about choosing and taking the right pathway, maybe because the shepherding culture actually resulted in sheep paths crisscrossing the countryside, and following the right one brought you home to the sheepfold but also served as a metaphor, or a proverbial moral compass, for life.
“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27)
In the New Testament, Jesus called himself “…the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6). Later, “The Way” (Acts 9:2) became a title for his followers, and the name of their belief before the term Christian was used. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also hailed back to the Old Testament metaphor when he taught “…narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7:14)
Many practicing Lenten disciplines of penitence and introspection these days, or Passover remembrances of the Exodus and 40 years of wilderness wanderings to find home and freedom, are resetting their “integrity compass” that can take them on a better way. I hope and pray you find and take the one where you’ll never feel lost!
Just one more quote for the road: “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3)