I spent last week in southern Florida. Florida was my home for four years of university, and I can honestly say that I did not appreciate it enough while I had it. I mean, I had great times and experienced a lot and made fantastic friends. But I really struggled during college (mostly in a non-academic way) and because of that I felt like I was constantly trying to get away. And so I didn’t appreciate what I had while I had it. But there’s something to be said for 20/20 hindsight.
So like I said, for winter break from teaching, I drove down to Florida. I have some funny stories to tell later, but for now let it suffice to say that I spent a couple of days in Key West and a couple of days at my alma mater in Naples area. While I was in Naples, I was stopping to feed the worst of my addictions (I was buying cigarettes) and I encountered Chivalry.
Now, I’d been under the impression that Chivalry had died long ago, so it really caught me by surprise to see him walking around and talking to strangers. But there I found him, alone at a gas station in the rain.
I was walking up to the door in somewhat of a hurry. Before I could reach out to grab the door handle, this little old man came half limping and half running up to the door. Despite his stoop and lack of the strength of his youth, he insisted on opening the heavy glass door for me. I smiled and said thank you like I usually do – always sure to acknowledge the small acts of kindness we find so seldom these days.
When he’d opened the door he did it with a look of determination, as if he’d done this all his life and would never stop, but he also did it with a look of resignation, as if he’d done it countless times for people who just didn’t care. When I turned towards him and smiled and gave him my thank you, his whole countenance changed. His eyes opened wider and brighter, his posture straightened a little, and he said to me in a lovely southern accent, Chivalry is alive and well… sometimes. I couldn’t help but to respond to his enthusiasm, and smiling bigger I responded, yes, I’m so glad to hear that, thank you for that!
As I walked up to the counter for my cigarettes and he walked to the freezer for his beer, I think we both had more of a spring to our step. It was good to see Chivalry, because really I don’t remember the last time a stranger opened the door for me, or the last time someone acknowledged that I’d held a door for them. And even that is the last of all the chivalry we really see. I don’t have chairs pulled out for me to sit for dinner. I don’t have car doors opened for me. I don’t have umbrellas offered me when I have to go out in the rain. I don’t hear people say ladies first like I used to.
And I mean, I understand why all these practices have faded away – a distorted notion of feminism has stamped them out. And there’s also the lack of gratitude that’s shown to the remaining gentlemen who still do these things. I get it. Men aren’t unjustified in having pulled away from this sort of deference. But I’d just like to say on behalf of a great number of people that we appreciate your chivalry. It is a classier and friendlier way of living life, of interacting with the people in the world we inhabit, and of doing good. So please, don’t stop. When I see you I will thank you. If I don’t see you, thank you anyway. Please don’t let this disappear. Just as I’ve seen Chivalry walking around and talking in southern Florida, I hope to see him again soon in men of all ages the whole world round.