As I was coming in to work the other day, I handed my ID to the security guard like I always do. Usually they just swipe it and say, “Thank you” or “Have a nice day,” and I nod or smile or say, “You too” and move along. But this time, the guard swiped it and said, “Be supportive today.” I stammered a hasty, “Oh, I will,” and walked on.
My first thought was, “Something bad has happened.” Either someone close to the company had died, or worse, some kind of national tragedy had occurred while I was on my way to work that I hadn’t yet heard about. I quickly pulled out my phone and checked the usual sources, but didn’t see anything that could be construed as an emergency. And nobody around me seemed upset or distressed. So only after leaping to the worst possible conclusion and having it definitively dismissed did I allow myself to think that maybe the guard just wanted people to be nice to each other in general.
I thought about the story of how the cast of the new Ghostbusters film went to visit some sick children in the hospital. And how my Facebook feed filled with posts about it being shameless marketing, a cheap publicity stunt. Nobody wanted to look at it as four actresses under no obligation to do so doing something nice for some sick kids. Nope, it was, “Those kids don’t know who they are! How are they going to appreciate something from a movie that’s not even out yet?” Again, the worst possible conclusion.
I get that we’ve seen some horrible stuff go down. We’ve seen unspeakable acts of terror. We’ve seen politicians lie and distort for their own personal motives. We’ve seen beloved celebrities reveal themselves to be less than admirable, and even downright despicable. We’ve seen things get hard for people who don’t deserve it. We’ve seen resistance to respect and dignity and equality. So I can understand the temptation to view everything through a cynical lens, to pick away at the hidden motive for every seemingly benevolent act.
But why the hell should we? Isn’t the best way to combat the seemingly never-ending wave of negativity not to succumb to it? Shouldn’t we embrace the good when we see it, rather than trying to pierce it to see what lurks behind it? Can’t we let go of our detachment and our skepticism in the face of a kind gesture? Because if we don’t, sooner or later no one’s going to bother with kind gestures if doing so is just going to get them questioned and accused for the trouble. Easier to stay in our own little cocoons and let the world pass us by.
Oh sure, we’ll be forever alone. But at least no one will ever sneak one by us. That’ll show ’em.