“What does integrity mean

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Michael Blake
“What does integrity mean?” As I looked down, I saw that these words came from an
eleven-year-old boy named Alex. Although he was only looking for a simple definition, I could
not force the words out. In fact, I was not even able to make a single sound. As his big brown
eyes looked up at me, I had to look away. To him, I was the coolest person in the world; I was
“his dude.” How difficult was it for me to give a basic explanation of the word? I felt as though I
had disappointed him, and he no longer thought I was special. It was then I realized that integrity
is not just what you say, but more importantly, it is how you act each and every day.
In my life, I have been shaped by people whom I consider special: my friends, family,
and teachers. It is these people who have encouraged me to be myself and step out of my comfort
zone. As a prominent activist and Brown University graduate Cedric Jennings once said,
“Human beings are like tea bags, they don’t know their own strength until they’re in hot water.”
For me, this is especially true. When I am stretched beyond my limits, I find truths about myself
that I did not previously know. It is in these moments that my character is developed.
When I was young, I never pictured myself having lunch in a homeless shelter.
Sometimes, it is just how the cards are dealt, and I must deal with it. I had only begun to think
this way because of my friend Howard. Only several weeks ago, I met him at the West Side
Catholic Center during lunch. Howard was completely honest with me, and described the horrors
of his life in prison and on the streets. The story of his struggles nearly broke me down, and I
realized how meaningful life is. For this reason, I have come upon service, and it has enveloped
my life. When I talk to men like Howard, they teach me the important things in life: passion,
determination, and sincerity. Because of him, I now know that I must have goals to live a wellrounded life.
As a result, my new goal is to become a better person and lead others to do the same. The
only way to encourage others to change is to change myself. If I am a truly sincere person, I can
be a role model for others. Even though I may not revolutionize the word, I will strive to improve
the life of one person so they can be “the dude” for someone else.
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