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By Jennifer Hartline, a Senior Contributor, The Stream, March 25, 2019
I don’t travel very much, but I recently had occasion to fly home to spend a weekend with my mother. My trip took me to some very busy airports, and I had enough layover time to walk the concourses, find something decent to eat, and do a lot of people-watching.
Some of my observations were sad and unpleasant. I noticed that almost no one was smiling. Now, there could be a hundred good reasons for this. Traveling is stressful. It can make you hungry, and hungry people get cranky easily. It can be exhausting, and tired people get cranky easily. If you’re traveling for a sad reason, well, you’re probably not going to be chipper or personable. If you’re just in a rush to get to your gate, you’re probably not your happiest self.
Plenty of legitimate reasons to not be smiling. Still, it stood out to me that nearly every person I saw looked … burdened.
My time in the airport also taught me something very important.
The Long and Restless Layover
Chicago Midway airport is a madhouse. A madhouse under construction. The flight was delayed, and then delayed some more. For quite a while, I sat on the floor against the wall because the place was packed and seats were none to be found. When it finally got within 30 minutes of boarding time, I got up and walked to the gate and stood in line to wait. (If you fly Southwest airlines, you know how their boarding works. You have your boarding group and you stand in the appropriate place at the gate and wait for your group to be called.)
A young man — he could not have been more than 20 years old — got up from his seat and asked me, “Would you like to sit down?” Such a young man, yet such a gentleman. I was touched by his offer, but I declined by telling him thank you, but I’d be sitting soon enough and it would do me good to stand for a while. He asked again if I was sure, and I said I was. He smiled and sat back down.
Then later, I was kicking myself for it. I should have accepted his offer. Not so much for my own sake, but perhaps for his, and for an even greater reason.
Let Him Be a Hero Again
I wish I had given that young man the opportunity to be a hero in a small way. He was being gallant and considerate, and I wish I had rewarded him for it. I wasted the chance to reinforce gentlemanly behavior when it was shown to me as a lady.
Perhaps many people would laugh and say I’m presuming much too much, but I still believe that a gentleman feels a sense of pride and pleasure at having been a gentleman. I think it makes a man feel good to let him be a good man. I imagine something on the inside of him straightening up a bit, and feeling a sense of accomplishment, and yes, heroism, even when the deed done is small and seems trivial. For the record, it is not trivial at all.
Am I wrong, gentlemen?
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I think men shine when they feel appreciated. And in this way, I think women have failed miserably for far too long. When women scorn chivalry, no one is better off. I think if we reward gallantry, we will get more gallantry.
The Beautiful Balance
I reject the poisonous attitudes of modern liberal “feminism” that so despises men just for being men, and revolts at the mere suggestion that a woman might benefit from a man’s help. Yet I admit it’s become an unconscious, knee-jerk reaction to decline when a man offers me his seat, or offers to do some small thing for me that I could do for myself.
It’s not necessary to be a perpetual damsel in distress. Women can be capable and still let men be strong. There is a beautiful and magnanimous balance that has been trampled underfoot, and we need to make the effort to achieve it. Ladies and gentlemen inspire one another and bring out the best in men and women.
I know I will be conscious of this going forward, and the next time a gentleman offers me his chivalry, I will not refuse. I will delight in letting him be a hero, no matter how small the gesture. It robs me of nothing in the way of competence or independence to honor a good man’s inner knight.
To that generous young man at the Southwest gate, please accept my apologies and my gratitude for your thoughtfulness. And please keep right on being a gallant knight. The world needs you desperately.
Jennifer Hartline is a Senior Contributor to The Stream. She is a proud Army wife and mother of four children. She writes passionately on the issues of Life, faith, family and culture, and has been published extensively at Catholic Online and at Catholic Stand. She is currently pursuing a degree in Theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She runs on dark chocolate and peppermint mochas.