Chivalry Used to Mean So Much More

We are currently facing unprecedented times in our world. The global pandemic has changed how we view everything from healthcare to disease, social interactions, and of course, travel. No doubt, we all think differently this year about so much more than usual. As I sit on a plane today, I find myself asking if chivalry, manners, and kindness are dead due to the fear people now carry with them as though it is a handbag.

The New Travel Scene

I am traveling on a flight from Nassau to Houston via Charlotte. There are only three scheduled flights from Nassau today. To see everything closed and so few people in an airport usually filled with sun-kissed tourists, bustling gift shops, and rum cake stands is an eerie scene. Yet I suppose it is also reassuring to see how clean everything is and how many travel, health, and safety protocols are in place.  

My flight is a little over half full. My daughter and I have a row to ourselves. Across the aisle, there are six grown men within immediate proximity. Each man is roughly 40-60 years of age. Just as I am settling into my seat and wiping everything in sight with antibacterial wipes, an older woman approaches the seat in front of me. She is at least 75, dressed impeccably well, and has an exquisite and extremely clean carry-on bag. She glances at her row, the overhead bin, and our surroundings. The many men nearby do nothing. I spring from my seat and offer to help with her bag. The relief in her eyes and kind words of gratitude uttered from under her mask filled my heart with warmth.  

The New Mindset

Why is it that I am the sole person who offered to help this woman? Although slightly stereotypical, wouldn’t you expect a man to be the first to offer up a seat to the little old lady on the bus or train? Wouldn’t you think a man, any of the available six nearby, might offer to assist? What kept all from doing so? I would love to believe it is because they were mindful of protecting the woman from contracting COVID-19. However, I watched as several took off masks at various times, if wearing them properly at all. Unfortunately, my other assumption is there is now a new mindset guiding people’s actions involving the widespread fear of contracting the virus.  

My mother is a widow, travels alone, and will turn 79 this year. Perhaps this is why this particular woman traveling alone spoke to me at this moment. As a mother, I often find myself traveling alone with a child. Therefore, I am very empathetic when I see a mother doing the same. I am also a military spouse who grew up in the Texas. Respecting your elders and strong manners are part of how I was raised and are part of the military lifestyle I now live.

The New Reality

My encounter today makes me sad. So much more sadness felt for a world forever changed by something out of our control. So much more deflated to see how fear has taken hold of many. It is so much more discouraging to see how the media, government mandates, and pandemic have begun to shape humanity. It is difficult learning to live in this new sad reality. 

Many people are struggling in unimaginable ways worldwide due to the effects of the global pandemic on healthcare, the economy, and normalcy. How can we begin to help others facing the toughest of times if we can’t even be polite, kind, or empathetic in a public setting when someone needs assistance? 

My head and heart are full of so much more worry as I sit on this flight. I do not wish to fall ill. Yet if I do, I am equipped to handle it. At this very moment, I am far more concerned about the state of humanity. Manners, kindness, empathy, and chivalry still mean so much more to me and others with traditional values. Please think about this the next time you encounter the woman, child, or mother traveling alone with no one to assist them. Although they may or may not need assistance, they certainly deserve kindness, during a global pandemic or otherwise. 

Published by Sarah Ortiz Benson

Freelance Writer

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