I don’t remember when I first heard the word “integrity,” but I remember hearing it, and for a long time, only having a vague idea of the meaning.

Merriam-Webster has three definitions for Integrity:

E Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.

E An unimpaired condition.

E The quality or state of being complete or undivided.

Those definitions seem a bit technical to me. I like to think of integrity as simply doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching.

The sermon in my church recently was all about living a life of integrity, but it took a different approach than I had ever considered. Part of the sermon focused on having integrity in the way you give by giving to those you love, to those who are in need, and to those who have been wronged.

For the first time, I realized that integrity and kindness go hand in hand.

Kindness is sometimes randomly bestowed upon a stranger, but we are most frequently kind to the people we love. That form of kindness seems pretty easy.

Occasionally, someone in need crosses our path, and we show kindness by helping him or her out as best we can. Kindness in these situations can be a little more difficult because people have different ideas about who is “needy.”

I feel like kindness becomes really tricky when we’re dealing with someone who has been wronged, because that often means we have to stick our noses into situations that may be none of our business. It is in those times, however, that integrity and kindness shine. Take the example sent in by 24-year-old Liz Michels.

“This past week, I went to a restaurant to enjoy a nice lunch, and I saw something that just shocked me.

“Now, first I have to say everyone knows the Golden Rule “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” We all learned it in elementary school, and it continues with us every day.

“Well, as I was sitting at my table at the restaurant, I noticed a couple giving their waitress a hard time. They were yelling at her, saying she wasn’t doing her job right and they demanded to see her manager. The waitress was on the verge of tears, but she kept her composure and got her boss. Luckily, the manger fixed everything, but the worst part was yet to come.

“Before the couple left, they went back to the waitress and yelled at her again and then refused to leave her a tip even though, as far as I could tell, she did nothing wrong.

“As I continued eating my lunch, I saw her working really hard and doing everything she was supposed to be doing. She wasn’t my waitress, but I knew I had to do something for her.

“Before I left, I handed her a tip and said how sorry I was that those people were so rude to her. Her face was priceless when I handed her the money. She clearly was not expecting it.

“She thanked me several times and said she was trying to do an honest day’s work and that she just wanted to make a living for herself. I knew that giving her that tip was the right thing to do. It made my day knowing that I could I make such a difference in another person’s day and make someone feel appreciated.

“I wanted to write about this experience because I want to show others that kindness can go a long way in making a difference in this world.”

Thank you, Liz, for sharing your story. It’s very easy to turn away and pretend we don’t see someone being wronged. We can even justify our actions by saying, “It’s none of my business.” It takes true integrity to instead heal the hurt with kindness.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@hotmail.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.