I would also have to repeat my report about brickmaking and receiving a genuine brick fragment from our leader. The fact that the fragment is from Martha Washington's first husbands estate in Williamsburg astounds me, and I shall cherish it.
For my final personal reflection on the institute, I'm going to go in a slightly different direction; in all of my previous reflections, I have referred to things I saw, experiences I had, or moments I shared with other human beings, but for this one, I want to relate something I brought with me.
On the last day, our leaders offered a time for people to share their feelings and ideas with the group. It was a time when people said their goodbyes to the group and expressed their appreciation. One of my new friends shared that she was very blessed to have attended the institute with such gentlemen - men who held doors for the ladies and treated the ladies with respect in every way.
I was one of four men in the group. In elementary schools, male teachers are always outnumbered by ladies. For my 32 years of experience teaching in public schools, I have always worked in a female-dominated setting. At any rate, for many years now, I have subscribed to old school values of chivalry and proper etiquette. I was certainly aware of my minority status and my traditional values while on this trip.
I began at the beginning by being the man who opened the door and held it open for all of the ladies when we entered and exited buildings. At first they were surprised, then appreciative. One of my new friends expressed how appreciative that there was a gentleman at the institute. I made it a point to tell her that I was happy to serve as long as they would accept my traditional values. I continued in this, allowing the ladies to go through buffet lines first and the like, until I noticed one of the other men stepping up his game as well. I smiled to myself when he did, knowing that my influence had made a difference. He probably wasn't accustomed to taking such a conscious role in those kinds of acts, but I think he enjoyed the appreciation of the ladies, both younger and older.
For me, right or wrong, I developed a sense of great satisfaction that I was being recognized for my chivalry, but perhaps even more so that I had a direct influence on another grown man. One does not always get to see his positive influence on other people, and I couldn't help but feel a bit of joy on multiple occasions during the week.
So I loved when the "gentlemen" were recognized and applauded on that last day. It was wonderfully rewarded for just being myself.