On Feb. 23, the ladies of the Trinity University chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship put on an event called “Second Breakfast”, where they cooked breakfast as a way of repaying the men of InterVarsity for hosting their annual Evening of Elegance earlier in the month.
These events represent an important counter-cultural drive by young Christians at Trinity to promote the happiness of others above the desires of the self, and to give more to the world than they take from it. This was accomplished by promoting the virtues of chivalry and service. As our society grows in its drive to emphasize individualism above all else, we have left behind these important and mutually beneficial ideals in favor of self-servitude. Too many people refuse to accept help, because we have been told over and over that we can depend on no one but ourselves. This is a symptom of a society that has lost its purpose, and is blind to the love that can be shared in Jesus’ name by serving and being served.
In few words, Evening of Elegance was an event put on by male members of InterVarsity and their friends to serve the women of InterVarsity and of Trinity at large. Every element of the remarkable evening, including rides, food, decorations and entertainment, was coordinated so that the women didn’t have to contribute any of their own efforts. With joyous smiles, the men ran about that small church building to wait on the women hand-and-foot all night long. From the perspective of a female attendee, the excitement and foresight put into this event was astounding, especially by college-age males.
As a part of InterVarsity’s leadership team, I spoke with many people about the events, both before and after they occurred. It was part of my job to invite people from outside of InterVarsity and to explain the overarching purpose of the events. A good number of the people I spoke with, particularly those from outside of InterVarsity, were surprised at the mere premise of Evening of Elegance. They simply could not fathom that so many college boys would enthusiastically band together and devote their time to putting on a well-coordinated event that wasn’t for themselves. It was baffling to them that these men would expect nothing in return, and were excited to serve others simply out of the goodness of their hearts.
For those who aren’t involved in InterVarsity, the purpose of Evening of Elegance might seem unclear, and the event itself might seem puzzling. This is perhaps because it interestingly constitutes a partial reversal of traditionally perceived gender roles, wherein the men are acting almost as care providers. Second Breakfast, conversely, is a willing conformity to gender stereotypes, for which women use their skills and passions to provide meals to others, taking their own food as an afterthought.
With Evening of Elegance, InterVarsity isn’t arguing against gender roles, and it isn’t affirming them with Second Breakfast either. Rather, its members are acknowledging and respecting the differences between the sexes and the roles they play in the advancement of the Kingdom of God. The goal is to make the experience unique and unforgettable, by demonstrating the love of God in unique and exciting ways to people who may not see it in action that often.
The distinct separation of the genders might make some uncomfortable, as modern society teaches us that there are no inherent differences between men and women, and that their activities ought not be seperate. Why should only men serve only women at Evening of Elegance? At Second Breakfast, why are women doing all the work? These are questions that are asked if one is attempting to fit the events into some preconceived picture of what the world looks like. This picture lacks in the virtue of service and promotes poor gender relations. The selfless care and love shown through Evening of Elegance and Second Breakfast cannot be justified using arguments coming from our present culture.
The prioritization of selfless acts of service is a virtue that is quickly dying out with a generation that increasingly prioritizes self-comfort over the well-being of others. However, Trinity students were able to not only place others above themselves through these events, but to do so joyfully and without being asked. The idea that anyone would dedicate so much of their time and resources solely to bring joy to others is not a common one. This is the self-sacrificial love of Jesus working in the real world.
Photo courtesy of Samantha Farnsworth.