By C.L. Harmon
One of the few good things about growing older is that we have been given the opportunity to witness change. For example, while recently out for a social evening in Tulsa, I and some friends were walking down a sidewalk where people were socializing or waiting to get into different establishments. I noticed that most of these people were holding and/or using their cell phones. I made my observation known to my friends by stating, ‘if this were the 80’s, these people would be holding cigarettes instead of phones.’ They laughed and agreed.
But change is a strange beast. My 100 year old grandmother passed recently and during the funeral and while reminiscing with family and friends about her life, a recurring theme kept surfacing. She never changed. Yes, it’s true that over the years she had different hair styles, fashion choices and upgraded appliances as they became available on the market, but how she lived did not change. The principles by which she chose to live were constant. She may have been watching a different television at 100 than she was watching 30 years earlier, but the type of programming she enjoyed did not change.
These stories reminded me of what my mother always told my siblings and I when we were growing up. “You are either a person of integrity or your not. There is no in between as to how you live your life.” People choose the way they wish to live regardless of what is changing around them.
I think this is what makes life so difficult. We get angry, taken advantage of, used, ripped off and ignored, but still we must act with integrity in the wake of these deeds if we wish to live a life of honor and respect, while those who don’t, seemingly go on with deceitful choices and no repercussions from those choices.
As I look back over the course of my life and all the changes I have seen, I must acknowledge events that I know shaped me to live a life of integrity to the best of my abilities. Being taught to pray, being allowed to do so in school, required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before class, expected to pull my car to the shoulder during a funeral procession, respecting my elders even if I felt they were in the wrong, expected to apologize when I was in error, to work and earn what I want out of life and to accept discipline and learn from the mistake which prompted the discipline. These are but a few of the requirements I was expected to follow. I know there are many out there who will understand exactly what I mean by saying how thankful I am that I was expected to follow the rules that teach respect and ultimately a life of integrity.
There have been many changes in our society over the past several years, just as there has always been over the course of existence. But those changes do not define you, your choices do that. Think for a moment about all of the changes my grandmother witnessed in 100 years of life. Not only is it the span of her life that is of importance, but it was also a period of change in culture and technology greater than the world has ever known.
Yet this single soul faced off with the entire world and its changes and defeated all that is wrong with those changes by staying true to what she believed to be a life of integrity.
We don’t defeat the wrongs of the world with politics, wars or governments. We become victorious by teaching others to do what they know is right regardless of what society’s changes may be. If laws, and accepted social norms make this more difficult, then we must work harder to influence others as to the worth of integrity, respect and honor. The fact that I am writing this is proof that my grandmother influenced me. Her example in life has become a part of everyone who knew her in the past 100 years and that will never change. Everything around those of us who knew her will certainly change, but we will all carry a part of her integrity with us throughout our lives. The future may not hold all the righteous fundamentals you knew as a child, but it does have you. A world with people who choose integrity is always left standing tall after the stormy winds of change blow through and alter everything else.