For those not totally familiar with Washington State, there is a body of water off the shores of Seattle known as the Puget Sound. North of the Sound and nestled between Vancouver Island (Canada) and Bellingham (US mainland) are a series of small land-masses known as the San Juan Islands. The archipelago consists of over a hundred outcrops, but there are really only about fifteen islands that you can build a home on. One of those islands is called Center Island, where my parents are fortunate enough to own a modest plot of land with a very rustic cabin.
Prior to my parents, the lot was owned by my grandparents on my dad's side. My parents bought the property in the early 70s and after doing so, decided to build.
Intoxicated with pioneer nostalgia, my dad started (and continues) to build the house with hand tools—and was only able to start using power tools in the 80s when electrical service became available. The project is somewhat of an endless endeavor that is fueled by the labor of love, but also held captive by the availability of time. So reflecting back on over 40 years of progress, the building components span from crafted pillars made from trees that resided on the property, to modern-composite materials that will never decompose. In other words, it's a total mixed bag.
But when it comes to the building means and methods, one thing has remained constant—and in my father's words, it's called, structural integrity.
Ever since the first day my parents broke ground, it was clear the home was being built to last. If one nail was required, two were used. If a pipe simply needed burying, it was encased in concrete. If a pier block on crushed rock would do the trick, a giant foundation was created instead.
And the factor of safety has continued to increase over the years... I mean why build a ramp that could support a single person when you can build a ramp strong enough for a Roman legion?
Of course I am exaggerating a bit and speaking tongue-in-cheek, but I will say that my father's version of "structural integrity" resembles that third little pig in the brick house—big bad wolves can huff and puff all they want.
Integrity is the condition of being unified, unimpaired, and sound in construction. Some synonyms are: sturdiness, solidity, durability, stability, stoutness, and toughness. I think these words sum up "structural integrity" in the context of my father's handy-work pretty well.
But the meaning of integrity goes well beyond the strength of a structure, it can also define the essence of one's character.
Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way. It's a personality trait that we admire, since it means a person has a moral compass that does not waver. It is the quality of being honest and having strong principles, moral uprightness, internal consistency, and lack of corruption. It is keeping your word, telling the truth, and making your yeses, yeses and your noes, noes.
Integrity is the choice between doing what is convenient and what is right. And it is doing the right thing when no one else is watching. It is choosing courage over comfort and basing your actions on values rather than personal gain. Because no matter how educated, talented, rich, or cool we may think we are, it's how we treat people that tells all. Integrity is everything. And if we do not have our word, we have nothing.
Growing up, my parents always told me and my sister to tell the truth. But only later in life did I fully understand the importance of having that value instilled in us. Telling the truth generates trust. And trust builds integrity.
We each need integrity. And we need integrity in this world. As a co-founder of BILLY Footwear, I choose to believe we have it...
...One might even go as far to say we have structural integrity, in the multiple senses of that old chestnut.
(Pictured above is a traditional lighthouse warning seafarers of potential shipping hazards. Lighthouses have long been a trusted navigational beacon for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways.)