Around me, as I lay in bed, were men of very different ages, backgrounds and personalities. Thrown together at the most basic level there were few secrets between us. The most personal details were discussed behind flimsy curtains.
Next to me was a born extrovert in his mid-fifties who had suffered an horrendous accident some days before. Though unable to walk, he commandeered a commode on wheels which he learned to propel (remarkably fast) by his one undamaged big toe; passing by each bed he had personal words for each man. It was remarkable not only how positive and encouraging he was with such apposite words but also how well everyone responded, especially the quieter men who seemed grateful to be recognized and included. He explained to me his philosophy meant that you had to make the very best of what you are given. 'You must move on' he said.
Next to him in the opposite corner an elderly man with knee surgery was having immense trouble coping. With failing appetite and limited ability to respond to nursing care he seemed to sleep a great deal. Our extrovert took pains to encourage him at every turn. Applauding every tiny step, calling the nurse (several times) in the night, and sharing his positive spirit with contagious companionship made all the difference to this man who turned out to have great humour.
It was extraordinary to witness how this group of men who had nothing in common before they were thrown together into pain developed bonding with such strong mutual support. In my six days I heard few moans, witnessed considerable bravery and stoicism with such brightness of spirit. Every time someone faced a procedure they were wheeled out of the ward to the sound of good wishes and greeted with concern as they returned. I know it would have been different without that extrovert and his power of positive thinking. Of course, one challenge I faced from this is to ask what positive influence I would have shown in his absence! Isn't there a word about being salt and light?