Friendly Neighborhood Chivalries

8:00am on a chilly morning in Springfield, Missouri. One of my neighbors, a woman in her mid-twenties, is trying to scrape several layers of ice off her windshield with a tiny scraper. I have a couple hefty ones in my car – growing up in the Midwest has its advantages – and immediately feel obligated to offer my assistance.

Then…I just stand there, plagued by indecision, unsure of how to approach the situation for fear of rebuke. I want to be neighborly and extend a helping hand, but to be completely honest, I feel a sense of fear that it would all be taken the wrong way. Our society does not view an offer of help the same way it used to; even holding doors open for women earns me a strange look sometimes.

But…what’s the right thing to do, watch this lady struggle against the elements, or offer to help? What is the right thing no matter who it is?

I walked over to the truck, saying good morning in a clear voice long before I got there. She looked up, still working on the icy windshield. I asked if the scraper she had was sharp enough to do the job; she smiled and warmly thanked me for the offer, saying she appreciated it but hers was getting it done. I returned the smile, offered a “good day” farewell, and headed to work feeling…strange.

With the spotlight on misogyny, feminism, and sexism in our culture today, sometimes it’s hard to remember that there are people who will make or take an honest offer for help as just that: a kind-hearted offer. No agenda, no demeaning, no reading between the lines. I would’ve felt awful if I didn’t at least offer that much, and it was refreshing to find a pleasant reaction to something that many would see as an attack on their self worth.

I was shocked at how fearful I was to even ask, though, which I take as something I need to improve, if only for the sake of contributing toward the solution instead of the problem of misinterpreted chivalries.