We all need a reality check from time to time. A significant one for me took place many years ago somewhere between cracked pepper and pyjamas.

My wife Lorraine won a competition that saw us spending a weekend in a flash hotel in Auckland with all meals provided. Unfortunately on the same weekend, Lorraine’s father was in Auckland Hospital for back surgery. So, we had a weekend of contrasts; enjoying fine dining and all that goes with a luxury escape and visiting the neurological ward where Roy was recovering from his operation.

We commuted between two vastly different environments. In one, well-dressed hotel guests had to make a decision about whether to have cracked pepper served with their meal. In the other, pyjama-clad hospital patients had to decide whether to proceed with life-threatening surgery. In Roy’s room there was a solicitor, a newly married Chinese immigrant, a construction engineer and a thirteen year old Polynesian boy, all facing serious life and death scenarios.

Serious illness is a great leveller. All status was stripped away and here was a room of strangers that perhaps would never have mixed socially. I introduced myself to each of them and was struck with the depth of conversation I was able to have. They let me into their present reality and their fears of the unknown. I came away feeling privileged to have been able to engage with them at such a personal and transparent level. By contrast it made all the pleasantries that went with the hotel experience seem false and shallow.

If given the choice I think I would most often gravitate towards a luxury escape over a hospital visit. But I found the reality check I had on that neurological ward all those years ago, far more fulfilling and rewarding than my hotel experience. Maybe I’m just strange. Or, maybe there is something deep within me that craves reality over fantasy. Substance over superficial. Giving over receiving. Maybe we all do.

What do you think?

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