What Makes a City Happier? by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Drew Coffman

When we’re happy, we’re happy where we live.
— Melody Warnick

In Shreveport, my hometown, there has always been a significant portion of the population that doesn't like living here. But in the past few years, there has been a big dialogue about who we are as a city and who we want to be. Citizens are asking themselves about how we can become a better place to live. 

I love that we are asking these kinds of questions regularly now. This new awareness, unfortunately, often only leads to conversations about all of the things that aren't working. People get frustrated before they even get started. But if we as individuals aren't doing anything to solve a problem, is it reasonable to expect anyone else to?

We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.
— Carl Sagan

The more useful questions for us to ask ourselves are:

·         What can I do to make myself happier in this city?

o   What am I interested in? What issues or causes do I care about? What do I want to see, learn, and do? What type of people do I want to meet or get to know better? 

·         What can I do to make myself happier in my life?

o   How can I take good care of myself and make more time for friends/family? What do I want more of? How am I working toward my personal goals?

When more people in our community take the time to answer these types of questions for themselves, the more satisfied we'll collectively be with our lives here. But until that happens, what anyone else does or doesn't do won't really matter because this is something you can fix for yourself now. The more invested you become in your city and your own life, the more you'll enjoy living there.

There are many people I admire in our community who have the passion and determination to help us fix problems through all of the official channels. They collaborate with the various systems in place and take the time to understand complex issues well enough to actually solve them. But as individuals, we all have a role to play. 

Even if we’re not ready to be the ones making the fun stuff happen in our town, we can show up for the people who are. Go to the festival. Buy tickets for the play. Throw a buck in the busker’s guitar case. Notice the little things that make your town vibrant and support them. Like the right community brand, it can change your perception of where you live.
— Melody Warnick

We will always have less time, money, resources, and patience than we wish we had to improve the world around us. But we don't have to make huge commitments or overextend ourselves. We can get clear about what we want and find small, inexpensive, and quick ways to add value to our communities. We can show up. 

Why Are We Fascinated by Each Others Stories? by Amy DeRosia

CC Photo by Dylan Lunder

A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate.
— Flannery O'Connor

I went to a live storytelling event called All Y'all last Friday night. The topic, "Omg" described as "personal encounters with faith, finding and losing God, and eye-opening encounters with the incomprehensible," made me a little unsure of how the night was going to go. God and religion can be a polarizing topic- especially around here.

The opposite of what I expected happened. Storytellers shared interesting experiences. Others listened with respect and openness. The venue was packed full of people and laughing and cheering and almost sacred, still moments.

I love events like All Y'all because they remind me that our stories matter. Tales that may not be covered by the media or noticed by most people. But that doesn't make them any less interesting or important. When we hear an ordinary, local person sharing a story with our accent and about familiar places, we see a bit of ourselves.

Over the past couple of years I've been curious about our identity as a city.  The answer has usually been distilled down into smaller, more simple pieces. Our collective story seems to be more about creating ways for people to share experiences with each other. 

Here are a few ways we can incorporate storytelling into our lives:

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
— Maya Angelou

Have the courage to share your own true stories.

Get on an actual stage if you can or sit across the table from a real person. Connection happens the most naturally in the same room. But there are many ways to tell stories- art, music, a photo, a project, or even social media.

So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfold quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.
— Sylvia Plath

Listen to the stories of those around you-especially if they aren't similar to yours.

Social media often reminds us of how different we are than so many of the people around us. But it is easy to only spend time with people who look and think like us. When life experiences or belief systems don't match, there can be some uncomfortable moments. We can support each other despite our differences.

Allowing someone to share a real experience they've had and feel supported is an important skill to develop. We all deserve to feel seen and heard.

One of my favorite examples of this is Story Corps. This video made me want to go interview my grandmother immediately:

Devote yourself to your community around you. Devote yourself to creating something that gives purpose and meaning.
— Mitch Albom

Create opportunities for people to voice and experience each others stories.

If you have a venue or an idea, I want to encourage you to make the event happen. When you organize opportunities for connection, you are an artist. This could be a festival, art show, concert, dinner party, service project, or simply introducing friends to each other. 

We can also contribute by showing appreciation for these events and experiences we love. Ask if there is a way you can help.

All of us have stories worth sharing. When we listen to each other and create spaces of belonging, we can shape the world around us. 

What is a story that has inspired you lately? Let me know in the comments.

Louisiana Snow Day and Embracing a Sense of Wonder by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Erin

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.
— W.B. Yeats

In Shreveport, it snowed today for the first time in about three years. I looked up at the sky this morning watching huge, wet snowflakes hit my face. Others floated to the ground and actually stayed there. This never happens here. 

My facebook newsfeed was full of pure, collective joy. Friends were documenting their little kids reactions to seeing snow for the first time and acting like kids themselves. Everyone was building BIG snowmen, having snowball fights, and trying to figure out what else you do with this white stuff on the ground that would be gone soon. 

When you know an experience is rare and fleeting, you savor it. You notice more around you. Everything slows down a bit. Serendipty happens. Memories are made. 

This attitude does not have to be limited to the rare snow day. Awe can become habit -a way of approaching the world.

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.
— Marcus Aurelius

A sense of wonder can be cultivated by:

Noticing small moments and appreciating them. This can be as simple as paying attention to your breathe or the way you drink your morning coffee. Slow down.

Being more conscious about connecting with each other. Positive, shared experiences can be uplifting for all of us.  Choose to put all of your energy into wherever you are: a conversation, game, party, etc.

Making time to play whenever the opportunity presents itself. Life is stressful . But days like today show show me how capable we are of enjoying life without too much effort. This kind of aliveness gives us hope. 

How do you savor regular life? Let me know in the comments.