Integrity transcends borders. For Gale and Sherie Brimhall, doing the right thing after their dog bit a neighbor, won the trust and loyalty of a crown prince on the far side of the world.
As members of the LDS Church, the Brimhall’s were building a wonderful family life in McLean, Va. A developer of marinas and waterfront properties, Gale was struggling for business success in the lucrative Middle Eastern market.
One day, Gale’s son was playing with their neighbors’ twin boys, Bill and Sam. The Brimhall’s dog couldn’t resist the action. Typically docile, Duke let his canine excitement get the better of him when he bit Sam, one of the Assad twins.
Not having met the Assad family, the Brimhalls wanted to visit Sam’s parents to make things right. Mrs. Assad was a gracious hostess, explaining that her husband, a banker, was away on business. Gale offered to pay for Sam’s medical bills and do whatever it took to heal the aftermath of Duke’s rambunctious teeth marks.
The Brimhall’s must have made quite an impression; Mrs. Assad seemed pleasantly surprised that these Americans did not fit the litigious take-no-personal-responsibility stereotype.
Some months after the dog-bite incident, Gale and his business partner traveled to the Middle East. They were in Abu Dhabi trying to secure their first marina development. The negotiations were difficult. The chief negotiator insisted on a letter of credit that highly favored the home-court advantage and was far too risky for the fledgling developers.
Skeptical that a deal could be worked out, Gale and his partner reluctantly agreed to further negotiations with the bank president the next day.
At that meeting, the banker was cordial but doubted he could accede to more favorable financing terms for the proposed marina. Shocked by the McLean, Va., address on Gale’s business card, the banker asked, "Do you live in McLean?" When Gale answered that he did, Mr. Assad said, "My family lives in the same subdivision."
Gale’s face brightened with a warm smile. He said, "Are you the father of twin boys?"
"My dog bit your son, Sam."
Mr. Assad bounded from his chair and embraced Gale. "Thank you for your kindness and example to my family. My wife explained everything. Any man who owns up to his responsibility is a man I trust. You’ll get your terms."
From that time forward, Gale received favorable terms on all letters of credit throughout the Middle East. Mr. Assad went out of his way to introduce Gale and his partner to the crown prince, opening the door to many successful business dealings.
Example of the believers
Integrity, personal responsibility and honesty transcend geography. Character matters in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, the family subdivisions of Virginia and the wind-lashed hills of Calvary.
The Apostle Paul said, "... but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12). In our day, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin has taught, "To me, integrity means always doing what is right and good, regardless of the immediate consequences" (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Personal Integrity," Ensign, May 1990, page 30).
For Gale Brimhall’s family, doing the right thing about a dog bite in Virginia echoed across oceans to seal something of far greater value than any business deal. That echo is the seal of integrity. It is a priceless stamp forged in the heart of character – even the character of Jesus Christ.
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law and teaches Law and Ethics. A former Phoenix stake president and current high councilor, he is active in Interfaith and a U.S. Air Force veteran.