LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain? — Psalm 15:1
In September 2013, a Dairy Queen customer shared the following in an email that went viral: As a blind man was paying at a Dairy Queen in Minnesota, a $20 bill fell out of his pocket. A woman standing behind him picked it up. The DQ employee, Joey Prusak, thought that the woman was going to return the money, but instead she tucked it into her own wallet.
When she approached Joey to place her order, the nineteen-year-old asked her to return the money to its rightful owner, but the woman refused. Joey asked the woman to return the money or leave the store because he could not serve such a disrespectful person. The exchange went back and forth until the woman finally left with the money still in her pocket. Joey then reached into his own wallet, took out $20 and gave it to the blind man who had been sitting and eating his ice cream. Joey said to the man, “Sir, on behalf of Dairy Queen, I’d like to return the $20 bill that you dropped.”
What’s even more amazing has been the response to this story. Joey became an overnight celebrity, and people have flocked to the Dairy Queen where he works so that they can support and see a place of kindness for themselves. Billionaire Warren Buffet paid Joey a call, and conservative radio host Glenn Beck offered to buy Joey his own Dairy Queen store. Another woman offered to pay for Joey’s college. The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. Joey himself said, “I didn’t expect any of this to come from something that was so little in reality.”
Perhaps that’s because Joey’s act wasn’t so little after all.
In Psalm 15, the psalmist gives us a list of characteristics of the people deserving to enter heaven. The psalm begins, “LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” The Sages explain that both the “sacred tent” and the “holy mountain” are references to the afterlife. Twelve traits of the deserving individual are listed, including being blameless, righteous, and truthful; despising evil and honoring goodness. However, all the traits can be summed up in one word: Integrity. And integrity is what Joey Prusak demonstrated.
These seemingly little acts of integrity are hugely significant in our lives. We may not receive the same kind of fanfare that Joey received when we do the right thing, but to God, it’s headline news. In the end, these small acts will be all that matters. Nothing in this world is worth the cost of our integrity.
Certainly not $20.(1)
Let me pause for a moment to say that we need more men and women of integrity like Joey today. Don’t we? Some of you who are employers, some of you who are managers, supervisors, you would love to hire people of integrity like Joey, wouldn’t you? Then let’s be that kind of person ourselves. Let’s live a life of integrity, no matter what the cost, and let’s see the supernatural blessings of God come down. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful testimony if your employer, your boss, came to you and said, “My company is blessed because you work here! The God that you serve is blessing me because of you!”
People with integrity have positive control over their lives and over the events in their lives. They have a clarity and certainty about what they want and will allow. They do not see life as “happening to them” but rather they make life happen. When we are not true to ourselves, we are open to being controlled or manipulated by others. Without integrity, control (the ability to start, change and stop things under one’s own determinism) becomes a huge issue, and its distorted form becomes a need to manipulate people, things, or situations, either overtly or covertly.
True integrity is spontaneously choosing to act on our values and spontaneously taking responsibility for the consequences of those choices. Either we choose to grow and become more of who we are, or we choose to contract, becoming less and less of what we were meant to be.
Today, the news is filled with examples of people who pay any price to win. They sell out to their fear of losing. They do this by sacrificing the most critical building block of a successful business and life – their integrity. Sure they win. They beat the competition, get the business and gain market share. But the price that’s paid is character and honor.
(1) “The Cost of Integrity” Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Holy Land Moments Daily Devotional, March 16, 2004