“The integrity of the upright guides them . . .” – Proverbs 11:3
Christmas Day 1957, I was just about to tear into the traditional envelope from my grandfather containing his usual generous check when he stopped me. “No, no!” he said, “read the letter first.” Letter, I thought? He never includes a letter. “Read it out loud!” he demanded. Sure enough tucked inside the envelope was a short typewritten letter, obviously pecked out with his two index fingers on his old upright typewriter, explaining that this year’s check was to be used toward the one thing I wanted more than anything else in the world – a newly-born pedigreed puppy that had been picked out just for me. In his shaky handwriting he signed the letter simply, “Paw Paw”, as we all called him.
All these years I have carefully preserved that letter, a last and lasting memory of my grandfather; for the following spring he became ill and passed away. I’ve saved it not so much about the puppy as it is a reminder of my grandfather’s character. With no more than a seventh grade education my grandfather had achieved great success in business, was a revered leader in his community, and a faithful Presbyterian. Even today, all these years later, I still occasionally encounter people who remember him and with fond expression relate some story about how their lives were somehow impacted by his extraordinary benevolence.
How could a man with so little education, we might ask today, attain such success and influence? I never knew for sure, for I was only nine when he died. What I do know about his life, however, reminds me of the four habits of common decency Dan Sullivan describes in his book, How the Best Get Better: (1) Show up on time; (2) Do what you say you’re going to do; (3) Finish what you start; (4) Say please and thank you. That, from what I know and have heard, is exactly what he did.
All these years I have treasured that letter because revealed between the lines of its simple message is a glimpse of my grandfather’s character. As the Proverb teaches: “The integrity of the upright guides them . . .” So it was, I’m convinced, that integrity guided my grandfather’s life, and that for me was his greatest legacy.