Is chivalry dead?

After a writing session in a coffee shop, I discovered a very flat tire. The temperature was in the teens, it was starting to spit snow, and dusk was just beginning to think about showing her dark side.


Photo: Marlys


Before roadside service showed up, a young man inside the coffee shop—noticing my dilemma—asked if I had a spare. “I can change it for you,” he said as he closed his laptop and started to gather up his things.

I thanked him profusely and roadside service showed up in short order: An older man of an age when he should have been enjoying retired life instead of changing flat tires in the bitter cold.

Roadside Service Guy was genuinely kind and gentlemanly. He sent me back inside the coffee shop to get warm where I watched him hustle between his truck and my car.

Before the flat-tire incident, I spent five days at my bro- and sis-in-law’s cabin on remote acreage. There had been heavy rains, and a pick-up truck stuck in the mud, and a nephew running the back-hoe to get the truck unstuck.

As a result the gravel road up to the cabin was in rough shape.

A guy named Dan was scheduled to come up later in the week for some large landscaping boulders. Because of the road condition, he high-centered his truck.

Knowing I was at the cabin, Dan the Rock Man took the time to smooth out a few of the worst places in the gravel road with the tractor.

I’m an old-fashioned girl. I like rutted roads smoothed out for me so I don’t get high-centered. I like having flat tires changed for me.

Not because I can’t change a tire myself. Not because I can’t stack firewood by myself. Not because I’m the weaker gender and therefore helpless.

It’s about feeling “covered” in a protective way, which is important to this widow. It’s about thoughtfulness. Consideration. Humankind helping humankind. Because male and female, we need each other.

I have a cousin-in-law who serves as an EMT in the mountains of northern California. Narrow, winding roads with steep drop-offs to a river, he has seen his share of accidents and deaths.

On one occasion, this big, bearded, manly cousin climbed down a steep embankment, assessed the situation, and knew he couldn’t rescue the extremely overweight, injured woman by himself in the dark.

And so, instead, he sacrificially held her in his arms for a long time, keeping her warm, making her as comfortable as possible until more help arrived.

Gentle. Manly. Chivalrous. So very attractive. Thoughtfulness and kindness are so very attractive to me.

I enjoy being a woman. I enjoy being a hard-working, non-helpless woman. There’s a good deal I can do on my own.

But if there’s a nephew, a brother, a male friend, even a stranger who offers to protect me in some way, then I’m going to say, “Thank you,” and let him change my oil, shovel my driveway, or take my arm to guide me across the ice (especially since I’ve not had much success on ice lately).

And I’m going to be so very appreciative.

A girlfriend called not too long ago, lamenting the state of the union and the state of the world. “I need to quit watching the news,” she said.

I had just come from church where the director of a non-profit in Uganda—Otino Waa Children’s Village—talked about their orphanage, and their boarding school, and how, with 2.5 million orphans in Uganda, their goal is to keep families together as much as possible.

When a grandmother, for example, ends up with nine grandchildren because the parents have all died of AIDS, Otino Waa provides funds for the grandmother to feed and clothe her grands, to send them to the school, to keep those cousins together instead of institutionalizing them.

Kindness, compassion, chivalry at its best.

That same week, friends funded airline tickets for three young women they’d never met. The flights allowed these women to be with their high school girlfriend on the anniversary of her loss of husband and son in one horrific accident.

A beautifully chivalrous story on the part of all involved.

I told my girlfriend on the phone about these two incidences and how neither of them would make the news because they’re not newsworthy: “But these kinds of non-newsworthy stories are everywhere,” I said.

There are countless people around the world writing kind, compassionate, chivalrous stories.

This thought from Tim Worstall:

Chivalry is actually nothing at all to do with the way that one treats women. It’s to do with the way that one treats everyone.

Is chivalry dead?

Not from where I sit.

Should chivalry be relegated to the male gender?

Absolutely not, because we women can also be kind and helpful and gentle and protective.

But should we women allow men to show us kindness and assistance and a covering of protection when needed?

Absolutely. And what a gift to have these types of men in our lives.

Do you have a chivalrous story? I’d love to hear about it!


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  1. I love this, Marlys. And I so agree. Just today a young man stopped by and offered to shovel the snow from my driveway. And another friend and his wife stopped in to help me disentangle an earring that had fallen between the driver’s seat and the console of my car. Things I could do myself (and have done myself) but so kind of them to extend the offer and follow through. I’m fairly independent and am learning to do all the things Dick used to do for me. However, these kind men pay tribute to him by caring for his widow–and I’m so appreciative.

    • I love how you said that, Julie: “I’m fairly independent and am learning to do all the things Dick used to do for me. However, these kind men pay tribute to him by caring for his widow.” That says it so well — thank you, my friend!

  2. Gloria Hall

    Marlys, I love your thoughts and words and you are “right on”! I am not a wimp but I so appreciate men who are kind and helpful when needed. I even appreciate them opening doors for me and being polite. I get angry at women who are rude to men who are just being respectful and kind.
    I miss seeing you! Hope you are doing well! I hope to make a trip to Bend this year. Hope I can see you! Gloria

  3. Your right, it’s not dead. I feel as you do; I’m perfectly capable of taking the car to get serviced, etc. The only news program that I find uplifting is the 6:30 World News on ABC with David Muir. He always ends with a real nice human interest store. The other news programs, especially the 24 hour, Pfffffft, just sensationalism.

    • That’s a great word, Marcia: “Pfffffft”! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I like the nice human interest stories thrown in with the bad news.

  4. Oh Marlys,

    So wonderfully written on sometimes a touchy subject. I love how you acknowledge your own abilities as a himan AND see the strength and grace in allowing others to help us. It is not gender specific- yet, for some reason it seems to appear in our media to be a very confusing place on how to have compassion, wonderful manners and grace. My boys know their mom loves to get it done herself, because she can- and my boys love the feeling of accomplishment for themselves. AND how good it feels to help others and acknowledge the goodness that naturally resides in all of us. But there is something so humanly precious when we allow others to share their time, resources and compassion with each other. So- I hope to be a demonstrator of chivalry offering and receiving-… is a sweet thing!

    • Marni, I suspect that you’re an excellent role model to your boys as a “demonstrator of chivalry offering and receiving.” My hat is off to you as a cancer widow and single mom – raising two very strong, empathetic, gentlemanly boys.

  5. Kathi Denton

    Marlys –
    This was so beautifully stated. I am as always a work in progress, and need to remember these truths, both the giver and the receiver of these kind gestures! Thank you. I bet you have lots of snow at the cabin now. Be safe and warm my friend.

  6. Marsha Teaford

    You are so right! I had an epiphany after I had turned down a gentleman’s offer of help as I was carrying my granddaughter and her stroller up some very steep stairs. I thanked him but denied his assistance out of false pride because I didn’t want to seem like a helpless or weak 70-year-old grandma. I’m not helpless and I’m not weak but after that offer I felt so wrong in turning down his help. I should have instead accepted his help and expressed my gratitude. Here was a man trying to help someone who could have used a hand and it seemed like I had slapped it away instead of accepting it. After that incident I vowed to ALWAYS accept any help and to appreciate the human kindness it brings.

    • What a great little story, Marsha. You said this so well: “Here was a man trying to help someone who could have used a hand and it seemed like I had slapped it away instead of accepting it.” And I love this promise you made to yourself: “After that incident I vowed to ALWAYS accept any help and to appreciate the human kindness it brings.” Thank you!

  7. Marshall Matthews

    As always, wonderful, full-bodied and kind to everyone. Thank you, for affirming that many people can and want to help others without being stigmatized as a “do-gooder, gentleman, lady, chivalrous, kind” which for an unknown reason these days are laughed at or resented.

    • How ironic, Marshall, that gentlemanly, lady-like, chivalrous, kind, thoughtful people are laughed at or resented, when these are some of the most attractive people I know. Thank you for your kind words.

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