By Vincent L. Hall
Man, what a flashback. As I was about to walk into a local 7-11 store, a 10 or 11 -year-old Hispanic brother spotted me. He got to the door six paces before me, glanced back, and did something that shocked me. He opened the door for me, said “hello,” and smiled!
Man, you can’t imagine how flabbergasted I was. The art of being a gentleman is all but lost in our society. We have allowed blowhards, bullies, and blustery personalities to take center stage. Manhood in America has become aligned with arrogance, self-righ-teousness, and myopia.
This young man needed to know that I appreciated him. His parents are developing an old-school gentleman.
My paternal grandfather, always irascible and moody, insisted that diplomacy was the best policy. Ed Hall said, “It’s nice to be nice, but when you can’t, kick ’em in the ass.” Which meant…be a gentleman for as long as it’s feasible, but don’t be no fool.
Both of my grandmothers were stickler for charm and chivalry and developed some rigor in me that isn’t widespread in America anymore. For example, if a woman comes to sit next to a man, he is to stand until she is seated and then he can sit. If she gets ready to leave that seat, he should stand until she is gone.
Try it brothers!
If we were standing, facing a woman who was sitting, we had to ensure that she was not staring into our crotch. That sounds extreme, but you would be surprised to know how often that law is violated and found offensive.
There is no way to gauge how many elevators I’ve missed because there were women present who must be allowed aboard before me. It is difficult for me to walk past anyone without gaining eye contact and offering my salutations. Mama said you have to speak to them if you didn’t sleep with them.
I thank my mother and my family daily for making and molding me into the gentleman I am known to be. They took the time to teach us chivalry and common courtesy. Courtesy is an essential tool to create and sustain respectful relationships.
Unfortunately, too many of our young men lack grandmothers or women in their life who require and reward good behavior. So, we should create the type of village that plugs that gap.
Believe it or not, good habits are easily encouraged. You can do it in your car!
Say you need to change lanes. After eight other “A-Holes” ignored your turn signal, there was one kind soul who beckoned you to cut the line. For them you roll down the window and wave to show your appreciation. They will feel good about it!
Truck drivers and those who know the code do it regularly. If you can’t squeeze your 1978 Cadillac Coupe De ‘Ville in a lane, imagine doing it with an 18-wheeler wagging a 53-foot trailer.
Whenever you see a trucker trying to negotiate a lane change, blink your lights to let the driver know they can cut the line. They will reward you by flashing their trailer lights several times. They just may be carrying that baby formula you need!
The net result is that we all feel good when we know we did a good deed. There is no greater feeling than being acknowledged for showing compassion. My mother says if you say thanks well enough, people want to experience your thanks again.
After all, you felt like a butthole when you didn’t let a fellow driver cut the line. You felt uneasy after you lie to beggars who ask you for money. You were being mean when the truth is you would gladly donate a dollar than trade places with them.
Being a gentleman is not all about gender or chivalry. Being a gentleman is about showering others with a smidgen of the grace that God showers on you daily. Grandmother Hall said that you might be better off, but you are no better than anyone else.
So, the next time someone needs to cut the line, think about how great the reward is for such little investment. It may cost you 10 seconds, but being kind regularly adds years to your life.
Oh, you don’t want to live long? Come on, and I’ll let you cut the line. I ain’t in no hurry.
Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.