Have you heard of the bus monitor bullying incident? It’s a really devastating story with an amazing outcome. Over $500,000 has been raised for this incredibly patient and deserving woman! That’s a huge testament to how generous and empathic people can be in the face of truly horrible human acts.
Except not all stories will benefit from a viral YouTube video. There will be silent cases of injustice and downright insensitivity in the world, whether at schools, the office, or anywhere else. Some people don’t get to be heard, their devastation will only be singly felt by just them, no one else.
T and I had a conversation not too long ago about the idea of chivalry and whether it should be taught growing up. He heard about the debate on a radio talk show and one commentator (a woman) denounced the idea, calling it unnecessary and emphasizing that you should teach children to respect all people, not just women. Now let’s provide the general, albeit medieval, definition of chivalry via Wikipedia:
“a traditional code of conduct…. The knight’s code of chivalry was a moral system that stated all knights should protect others who cannot protect themselves, such as widows, children and elders. Over time its meaning has been refined to emphasize more ideals such as knightly virtues, honour, and courtly love, and less the marital aspects of tradition”
In more contemporary terms, chivalry might equate to opening doors for ladies, standing up when a miss enters the room, and such related gentlemanly acts. But at the core is this universal respect for others. While history taught us that women fall under this category, the changing times have proved that notion otherwise, considering feminist movements and the straightforward fact that young women are quite able to fend and tend to themselves. In which case cynics would argue chivalry is dead.
But I like to think otherwise. Today’s culture has changed. Ideas have changed to mold themselves within contemporary understanding and tolerance. Women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay rights–all ideas that were once foreign but now brought to the forefront and (mostly) accepted. Why can’t the idea of chivalry do the same? Signifying not romantic courtship and etiquette but simply a core value of universal respect. As a young woman I have no qualms with holding the door open for my boyfriend or any other person who happens to he following me into a room. I have no ideals of distinct male vs. female roles of conduct. And if a man feels the need to offer me his seat I will take that as a nice gesture and return the favor to an elderly person who may also benefit from the act of kindness.
What irks me so about the debate on chivalry and the whole bullying mayhem that occurred this week and all around the country is that it does not hurt to express these values in young generations. Kids these days are growing up so fast and the feeling of entitlement is following them wherever they go. What’s the harm in spending time to teach boys and girls the importance of being (insert chivalrous, respectful, kind, thoughtful, empathetic) to each other? Opening doors, saying thank you, saving the day and awarding the hero. Chivalry isn’t dead, it has only changed. It’s a code of conduct for women and men alike. It’s a gesture, an idea of kindness, an open door for communication. It doesn’t hurt to be extra nice in a world where hardly anyone will defend an elderly woman from being berated by several disrespecting runts. So don’t wait for that depressing video to show up on YouTube before you offer your generosity and kindness. Keep it on the forefront and hope that it keeps these incidents from happening in the first place.