It was late in the evening and I’d just stepped into a packed underground train carriage. I was feeling pretty pleased that I’d managed to maneuver my way through the medley of suited, skirted, and dressed down bodies to one of the most prized standing spots bar getting a seat — the glass partition at the end of the row.
As I was making myself comfortable — as comfortable as you can make yourself standing upright in the life size equivalent of a tin of sardines (but minus the oil) — the man sitting roughly opposite where I was standing leapt to his feet and said, “please, sit down.”
His face was a picture of concern, and he stretched out an arm saying, “Take care,” as the train lurched out of the station. I must have looked a little puzzled but breathed out a thank-you in a slightly questioning tone, and sat down with my two full bags and one big book (Living the Dream by Corwin Hiebert, in case you were wondering).
And then it hit me: I think he thought I was pregnant. I wasn’t, or rather, I’m not.
Now hear me out. I’m not saying that guys only offer up their seats to pregnant women; actually, many don’t. On the contrary, I’ve been the grateful recipient of a number of seats over the years, and there would be no reason at all to think it was anything but kindness, or an act of respect — though I have to say these offers didn’t usually happen during the morning rush hour. Just an observation.
In this case it was still a kindness, of course. But there was something about his attentiveness and the fact that I was wearing an oversized coat. Fashionably oversized. It’s a coat that can hide a pregnancy, and probably more. It fastens flat down the front, but it has a lot of swing. And the buttons are huge, and so are the sleeves. So you can see why I thought what I thought.
But I’ll never really know, and I don’t really care. It was such an instinctive response on his part, with no second-guessing, that it felt quite special to be on the receiving end. And thankfully I was aware enough to catch an insight:
Our deepest values and ways of being inside escape any pretensions to censorship to make themselves known loud and clear through action on the outside.
I know this to be true. What I’m about to share will sound like a silly example, but I promise you it makes the point: I cannot go to sleep without washing my face and brushing my teeth.
I did warn you, but there’s more. If I do drift off, regardless of how late it is, I will eventually wake up and wash my face and brush my teeth and go back to bed. And I’ll do this even though I risk losing that delicious sleepy feeling, to find myself inconveniently wide awake. I’m quite sure I could be lost in the Amazon jungle and I would still find a way to wash my face and brush my teeth before I went to sleep. The programming runs deep. (Although I have a strong hunch I might prefer to stay awake if I was, indeed, lost in the Amazon jungle.)
Anyway, back to knights in non-shiny armour and a great way with manners. The subject of chivalry and gallantry can provoke hot debate amongst womankind. However, there is clarity in my mind, whenever I’m offered a seat by a guy, I mostly, unanimously accept. An exception might be if I was getting off at the next stop, in which case I would decline with a big smile, and lots of thanks. Why?
Because I believe it’s an opportunity to flow with the creative process that is crafting humanity’s Collective Story, by acknowledging, appreciating, and acting on that which I’d love to see more of in the world. Silly not to, really. Don’t you think?
And now and again I do like to sit down.
In what unusual or creative ways do you influence our Collective Story?
p.s. Last night I popped to the shops for some quinoa – on offer and organic, result – and the girl at the till said, “I really love your coat.” I said, “Thanks, it’s really big I can wear everything underneath it.” She said, “No, it’s really chic, especially with the hood.”
Men, women, gotta love em.