When I was growing up, I can remember my Dad, who was born in 1934, having the best manners. One thing he would always do was to hold the door open for my mom, grandmother and two sisters, as well as any other female or elderly person before he entered a door or vehicle. He taught this same behavior to my brothers, who perform this act with nary a thought to this day.
But here we are in the 21st Century and things have changed quite a bit. Some individuals, both male and female, believe this behavior is archaic. Holding a door open is one of many chivalric acts that has slowly died off in our fast-paced, impatient, and, at times, selfish world. I personally appreciate when a man holds a door open for me. And I am far from insulted or offended by such an act, one which I still consider kind and thoughtful.
At the same time, I open doors for others regardless of their age or gender. If I see a man struggling with boxes, or a mom hauling a stroller while holding the hand of a child, or even a young person carrying a heavy backpack while maneuvering a suitcase, I always extend a helping hand. And even without any physical burdens, I will hold doors for folks entering or exiting an elevator, room or bus.
The question is what would it take for any of us to take an extra minute of our day to do this? It is not a gender issue; it’s an issue of courtesy. And regardless of one’s age or gender, encumbered or not, it’s also the right thing to do. Yet this act of courtesy seems to be rapidly disappearing. Some folks would probably say it depends on where you live ---well perhaps. I have observed in some southern cities, where the environment is less crowded and the daily pace a bit slower, that people’s temperaments seem more relaxed and they tend to pay closer attention to acts of courtesy such as holding a door for others regardless of one’s age or gender.
In my own lively, northern metropolis, rich in diversity but where emotional and physical stress is very high, there’s a tendency for these acts of courtesy to be forgotten. Perhaps we’ve become oblivious or too preoccupied with what we have “going on” to pay attention to the needs of others.
Have we become slaves to our 21st Century lifestyle? Are we so besieged and inundated with tasks that we lack the observational skills to notice anyone else?
Or could it be the speed of time that keeps us running at a “feverish” pace? Has time become such a precious commodity? Are we inundated with increasing responsibilities that must be completed in ever faster periods of time? Are we no longer able to take the time to stop and help someone else, much less “smell the roses?” But I feel I’ve digressed…
The real point is that it doesn’t take any time at all to provide a free hand to someone in need. And as far as gender stereotypes, we need to put aside old fashioned notions of only men holding doors for women. It’s more than that. We’re talking about human acts of kindness and daily consideration for one another. Believe me, the person who’s about to be late for work, running for that bus or grabbing that elevator door, will be highly grateful for your extended hand of help. And if one fails to say thank you, you could simply smile and say “you’re welcome.”
I understand this will sound odd, but for reasons
that are too in depth to discuss in this blog, there are people, women
included, who for whatever reason dislike a door being held for them. So just
in case, please ask politely, “May I get the door for you?" This will
give the other person an opportunity to accept or decline.
In the meantime, let’s keep working to return simple acts of civility to our society. I believe it’s not too late…