I felt inspired to write about integrity when a friend had asked me what I wanted to be remembered for. It is considered “self-promoting” to give an example of this but I feel the need to tell this story. It is one of the few times it proverbially bit me in the ass.
During my time on an US Navy warship; I ran into various opportunities to assist others. My fellow shipmates were my “brothers”. I felt a small sense of pride when I made their lives a little easier. We were a family. I would do favors for folks. I didn’t expect pay but I asked for everyone to do it for others. I had a great example to share with you.
My shipmates had various chores and responsibilities when the Christmas holidays came around. A handful of guys in one division would paint exterior areas that were well worn from a deployment. The “upper decks” of the ship would display signal flags or even bright lights. I fondly remember help move tables and chairs around when someone asked. Most Decembers were no different than others. I had one that broke the mold.
A shipmate, “Terry”, who was a literal lifesaver, stopped me one morning. He had asked me if I had 24-hour duty on a certain date. I, of course said “no”. I was open that Friday. I didn’t have anything scheduled. Terry asked me to give him a hand at the ship’s kids Christmas party. I feel good about helping out, Terry sacrificed his own time to take care of other shipmates. He had mentioned to find him after the end of the workday.
I didn’t have a lot going on that day. I cleaned a little. I might have helped someone move some charts around. Maintenance was more or less done. The holidays didn’t usually call for an exorbitant amount of work. I wrapped things up and found Terry. I helped move a handful of tables to a waiting truck on the pier. We made a few trips when a defining moment happened. A notable officer on our ship got on the ship’s loudspeaker (1MC) and said the following: “I have backstage passes to the KISS/Aerosmith concert. The first two to claim them get them”. I easily could have left Terry behind and ran off with the tickets.
I ended up at the Christmas party with Terry and what seemed to be 25 kids. It was nice to stay sober for a time. I interacted with people that showed a semblance of being adults. I had been at a breaking point in my life. After a row with a group of friends; I felt like I was in my “life 2.0”. I knew men had families. I knew that men were judged by their actions. I was hoping to be known as a person of integrity. A member of the community.
We closed out the party. Kids got to see Santa. Terry got his kids home. Later that night; I got back to the ship. I got done with a few other piddly things. I woke up the next morning. I was reading the newspaper. I noticed two of my shipmates that I drink with on the front page with Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. It would have been convenient to ditch Terry for a kickass show. I didn’t. I chose integrity over convenience. I hope that other men can do the same in the future.