By definition integrity means being honest and morally upright; and by definition graciousness means being courteous, kind, and pleasant. Nothing brings these two words front and centre more than a twelve-hour day spent among thousands and thousands of people walking in the heat of the day at Animal Kingdom… which is where Doug and I celebrated our 52nd Anniversary on Tuesday.
To say the day was the highlight of our month in Florida would be unfair to those special hours spent sharing meals with friends, winning—or graciously losing—at Mexican Train or Qwirkle, sunning at the pool, working hours upon hours on a puzzle, or walking on various trails filled with sightings of alligators and tropical birds. But Animal Kingdom was definitely a highlight!
Integrity and graciousness were personified as we walked beside, sat beside, and stood beside strangers throughout the day. Diane and Chip from Austin, Texas offered to share their table when finding space was impossible; a young couple from Chicago with two very tired little girls invited us to join them on the Kilimanjaro Safari; two women from Georgina, Ontario were delighted to connect with fellow Canadians from their neck of the woods; and Mary, a lovely artist from Miami made the hour-long wait to see Rivers of Light a very pleasant time (we actually exchanged website info).
But it seems there is always that one person who defies politeness, graciousness and integrity into nonexistence! He was very big, bossy and intrusive.
Along with hundreds of people equally anxious to see Finding Nemo, we stood in line waiting for the first sign of movement and when it finally came, we almost had a party! However, the party ended rather abruptly when a man—did I say a very big man?—pushed in front of us, shouting at his family to follow him. The scene went something like this…
My husband (very polite while pointing): “Excuse me, sir, but the end of the line is way back there.”
Very big man (not the least bit polite): “So! I’m getting in right here! The rest of my family is up ahead. (His whole body implied “Got a problem with that?”)
Me (being an alien in a foreign land, whispered): “He’s very big, Doug!”
Doug said no more and the man moved in behind us (which made me nervous and somewhat unsettled when I remembered something my father used to say about bad drivers: “Better to have them in front of you than behind you!”) I was very aware of this very big man breathing down my neck (or so I imagined!). But as the line crept along, he suddenly made his move and walked the curb, pushing his way through the crowd to the front of the line. (I wasn’t the only one who recognized his size. Everyone got out of his way!)
As he pressed himself forward, I overheard two teenagers in front of me comment: “Hey! That’s nervy!” “You’ve got to be kidding!” “Some people are so rude!” So I quietly informed them that he was joining his family. “Do you believe him?” one girl asked me. My reply: “I wasn’t about to argue with him. He was too big!” I watched from my vantage point to see if he actually did have family. He did not, but he was gone, way up to the front and I could breathe easier.
I suppose my story could end here. But there is a point to this little diatribe. This very big man had a five (or maybe six) year-old little girl following in his footsteps! She heard! She saw! She followed, with her mother and smaller sibling in arms, not far behind her. That’s what this is all about.
What lesson did this father teach his daughter? That if you want something you just take it, even if it means disrespecting those around you, even if it means being a bully, even if it means lying? I wonder if he ever understood the meaning of integrity. I wonder if he ever thought that his lack of integrity defined who he was and that someday his children may clone him in their behaviour. And, should that happen, I wonder if he will ever see himself in their behaviour and feel remorse.
I read somewhere that people may doubt what you say but they will always believe what you do… or, actions speak louder than words, and this very big man’s actions shouted to a mass of people, “Get out of my way! I’m coming through.”
Those strangers who were gracious to Doug and I made us feel appreciated and welcomed. The very big man did not. He missed the idea—no, the importance of being wise in what he did. He missed the concept that integrity and graciousness should be the core of who he was. Sadly he seemed to lack both.
I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.
1 Chronicles 29:17a
Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.
Let your graciousness be known to everyone.