The truth is I don’t think of myself as negative or pessimistic. I believe I’m a realist, which to me means not expecting terribly much from people, not expecting them to be selfless, empathic, actively supportive of those outside their immediate orbits, not expecting them to be actively supportive of, well, for instance, me.
It isn’t that I think people are horrible (though I do think some people are pretty horrible and would happily name them); I simply recognize that most of us are busy, distracted, and “selfish” in the ways that we all need to be to care for our families and ourselves.
Consequently, when someone behaves in a way that demonstrates a sincere interest in or concern for someone else, someone not part of their family, someone who is not in a position to return the deed, well, for instance, me, I am surprised, touched, and encouraged.
When a reckless and profoundly hostile driver caused me to crash my bicycle and I underwent spinal surgery that left me severely disabled for a long time, a group of parents I knew from my son’s school playground organized a regular menu of homemade food for us and provided transportation for my son to and from school. These people gave freely and unselfishly all of that and so much more.
I am equally affected, and always surprised by those who, for reasons I can’t even imagine, believe in me and act on that belief, those who take some sort of personal risk based on that faith.
When my publisher trusted me to make editorial choices for my novel because she believed in me, I was filled with a level of joy and appreciation I might not have known had I expected that trust. And when my friend Stanton Du Toit offered me the use of Tolani for my launch party (and wine and food to make the occasion more festive and appealing), I was touched in a way that someone with a more positive view of human nature might not have been.
My response to these acts of generosity, concern, confidence, loyalty, and faith has been so great that I may never fully recover my “cynical” mindset. But I’ll try. Without it, this would all be as unremarkable as a dishonest politician, a Florida shooting, or another snowstorm.