“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” —C.S. Lewis
My breath was icy and gave off white puffs in the air. The wind was like a thousand steel knives jutting into my face. I thought I couldn’t be any colder. My skis were sliding across the powdery snow. The white lushness shooting everywhere when my skis rasped against the ground. I was skiing with a group, and staying with the group was my main priority. We were all swerving through the snowy slopes in Breckenridge, Colorado, for the holidays. Me, four other kids, and the teacher. Everything else was tuned out. All I could hear was the sound of my skis scratching on the snow, and the wind whipping against my face. My mind was blank as I went along. Then the teacher stopped, and on cue the rest of the group including me skidded to a stop scattering snow everywhere. We rested for a few minutes, and were about to continue on when out of the corner of my eye, I saw something—something that kept me from going.
There was another ski group coming down the slope. The teacher stopped on one side, and like clockwork, the rest of the group did too. But there was one rogue skier: a young girl whose skis were going all over the place. She was clearly not in control. She kept swerving to the sides, almost tumbling over. Eventually she got close enough to the group, but she was even more unsteady now—unsteady enough for another girl from the group wearing a light blue jacket to stick out her left ski and trip the young girl over, causing her to fall to the white ground with a tumble and lose one ski. The teacher didn’t even notice; she was already off, with the rest of her kids following. I saw the blue-jacketed girl whisper to her friends for a split second before they let their skis continue down the slope, smiling as they left and leaving the young girl who had been tripped practically buried under the white powder. I couldn’t take my eyes off the young girl who had fallen. I almost felt angry, like I wanted to make the blue-jacketed girl fall to the ground like she had made the other one fall. Then I felt an urge to help the young girl trapped in the snow.
I couldn’t decide whether it was to be thanked by her or because I just wanted to help her after how she had been treated. But I knew I couldn’t. I had to stay with the group. Then the teacher’s words pierced my thoughts: “We will meet down there by the lodge.” I tore my eyes away to see her pointing toward a brown wooden cabin at the bottom of the slope. Then she took off, and the group followed. I turned back to the girl buried in the snow. I started arguing with myself. If I didn’t help her, she would never catch up with her group, and I would probably feel bad. If I did help her, then I would be left behind by my group. But then again, I knew where we were meeting. And I could help her and then take off really fast to get to the lodge. After all, my group always waits for everyone. I knew I was wasting time, but eventually I decided to do the thing that I actually least expected to do.
I walked over to the girl, my skis dragging through the snow. I was waddling like a duck, but that’s the only way to walk with skis on. After a whole lot of waddling, I finally made it over to the girl. She was wearing a white and pink jacket. Her orange tinted goggles looking up at me. I was lost with words. “Uh, hi,” I said awkwardly. “Do you want some help getting out?” The girl looked down at her body twisted in the snow. “Uh, yeah. Thanks,” she replied sheepishly. I popped off my skis to make the process easier, and then I started tugging at her reaching arms. She was in quite a pickle. The ski that popped off was a few feet away from her. The other ski was intact but barely. Her legs were bent underneath her, and she was covered in snow from head to toe. Every way she turned she was still stuck in the snow with her one barely clinging ski underneath her torso. I used more and more force, thinking she would never come free. Then I thought guiding her along the way might work.
“Okay so move your leg to the left, try and lift up your ski.” She tried her best to do as I said, and with all the tugging and pulling going on, she eventually flopped out of the snow in a position where she could stand up. “Thanks,” she said gratefully before popping off her other ski so she could walk to the one that was far away from her. “You’re welcome,” I replied satisfyingly as she walked off.
Eventually I made it to the cabin. I couldn’t stop thinking about the young girl I had just helped. At first I thought I did it simply because I saw someone in need and felt the urge to help them. I was fine with that. But if I was being honest, I helped the girl because I wanted her gratitude. I wanted to feel thanked. I wanted to be the hero. I didn’t do it out the kindness of my heart. And that made me feel bad. I did it to make myself feel good, like I was doing a good deed, like I deserved gratitude. Does this mean I’m a bad person? I kept asking myself this over and over again. I knew that I may have been getting worked up about nothing, but it still made me feel bad. Obviously I didn’t like this new opinion about me wanting to be the hero, but it was true. And even if I didn’t like the truth, it was still the truth.
A few days later when I went back to school, this event was still with me. I still carried it in my mind. As I adjusted to school once again, it started creeping up on me until I finally realized it. This honesty inside of me about why I had really helped the young girl had another name: integrity. I believe integrity is honesty—honesty to others but especially to oneself. And even if someone doesn’t like the truth, even if they don’t want it to be true, even if it makes them think the worst of themselves, it’s still the truth. It’s not always soft soap and everything you want it to be, it’s not always doom and despair. Then again, it can be comfort and soft soap, and it can be doom. Honesty just is. I have believed this is what integrity is ever since that icy day on the slopes and the realization of what truth is when I went back to school. Integrity. And I think that it’s something that should always be upheld.
So ever since then, I have made myself be honest with other people, but especially with myself because I learned how important honesty is in life. Ever since then, I have valued honesty as a trait in other people. And I hope that it’s a trait that grows stronger in me every day. And every winter, when the snow is falling and there is frost spreading on the ground and the windows, and I look out and see the icy world around me, I remember how honesty became a big part of my life. By just looking at the snowflakes, I remember. And sometimes, though strange as it may sound, when I’m washing my hands, I remember this too, by feeling the soft soap in my hands.