Early this summer Debbie and I took a much-needed break and headed to Nags head for a few days of rest. We left after church and stopped at Panera in Durham for a quick lunch on the way. We sat down in the dining room, and just after our food was delivered, I noticed a young woman barely in her twenties walking from table to table, talking briefly with the people sitting there before moving to the next table.
I honestly thought she was asking for money. When she finally made it to our table, I reached for my wallet, prepared to help her, but money was not what she wanted. She wanted to know if I was the owner of a white Subaru parked outside. Of course now I knew what had happened.
Nearly in tears, she told me she was very sorry but that she had hit my car as she was pulling into the adjacent space. I followed her outside, inspected the damage to the rear fender, told her not to worry at all about it, and exchanged insurance information. By the way, it turns out she was a student at Duke, but that’s beside the point, right? As she was preparing to leave, still apologizing profusely, I told her again, “This is no big deal. Try not to worry about it. I have a daughter about your age, and I would not want something like this to ruin her day.” Then I thanked her for going to all the trouble she went to in order to find me. I told her that this kind of integrity is rare these days.
When I went back inside Panera to re-join Debbie and my, now cold, soup and sandwich, a man sitting behind us strolled over and gave us the story from his vantage point. “I saw her pull in and hit your car. I really thought she would leave. She could have. But I watched that young girl go to every table and every customer in line in this restaurant until she found you.” That Sunday afternoon in Panera we witnessed an uncommon integrity that is so rare but so needed these days.
Two weeks ago I began the “Esther” series at Trinity Worship Center with a message on integrity (listen here). In that message I said that integrity can be defined as “the will to do the right thing even when it hurts.” Doing the right thing can cost us money, it can cost us friends, it can cost us a sale or a grade, but doing the right thing is always the right thing. Here is the integrity payoff though; when we do the right thing, people notice, and people remember. Our integrity can speak louder than any Bible verse we quote or song we sing or bumper sticker we paste on our car. The people in our lives are watching our lives to see if we will do the right thing, even when doing the right thing costs us. So let’s live our lives honestly, truthfully, and with uncommon integrity. That kind of living honors God, and it catches the attention of a watching world.
I had lunch at Panera on a Sunday afternoon and drove away with two things; a dented fender, and a picture of integrity that I will remember for a long time.