There is truth to the adage, "humans see what they want to see".
We recently ran a story about the negative perception of Rotorua and the impact that could have on our economic recovery.
It seems a common perception among locals that Rotorua has gone to the dogs. That it is full of crime, drugged out zombies and gangs.
And I'm not here to deny those things exist in our city.
But I also think it's unfair to say that's a problem specific to Rotorua.
So too do many leaders in our city, who say the city is on the up and work is being done to improve the problems identified.
But when we ran that story, people online insisted Rotorua had lost the spirit that used to make it special.
That's where perception comes into it because an individual's opinion about something is entirely dependent on their experiences.
When we moved to Rotorua six years ago, it was in a slump. House prices were stagnant, the population had stalled; the dial just wasn't moving.
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Since then, our city, pre-Covid, went from a seasonal tourist town to a year-round destination, businesses grew, festivals were established, we had the housing boom which saw many older houses renovated; the city was shaking its "poor cousin" reputation.
But none of that matters to somebody who only sees the town in a bad light because of their personal experiences.
So let me share an experience that happened to me.
This week I had to take my 6-month-old to the Foursquare to pick up some kindling.
I couldn't be bothered pulling the pram out so I nipped inside carrying my son in his capsule.
It was about 4.30pm so the store was busy and there was a line at the till. I grabbed the kindling in one arm, balancing some fire starters and a lighter on top, and carried the capsule in the other.
Standing in line, I put the capsule down because it was heavy, and when the line moved forward, I picked it up again and shuffled forward.
I was doing that for about five minutes when a young woman approached me and took the kindling out from under my arm, saying "give it to me, you have a baby, let me hold it for you."
I protested but she insisted, saying she saw me struggling and wanted to help. Once I paid, she even carried my load to my car while I thanked her profusely.
I lived in Auckland for years and never had somebody offer to help me like that.
It is small gestures and acts of kindness like this that make Rotorua special.
We have our problems and we can't ignore them but don't let them be the only thing you see.
From where I'm standing, Rotorua's compassion, kindness and spirit has never been stronger.