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. 

What Shreveport Has Taught Me About Happiness by Amy DeRosia

To live with purpose. To say the courageous thing. To celebrate the simple gift. To follow your dreams. This is the happy life.
— Wayland Henry


Lots of residents are beginning to see the potential in Shreveport-Bossier City. This is a wonderful trend. But, the real advantage comes when you learn to see the possibility in yourself to shape your experience anywhere.

Here are a few things I have come to love about life in my hometown:

Underrated places are usually a lot of fun.

People in Louisiana know how to have a good time. We celebrate everything. When you're at the bottom of almost every list like Louisiana is, you learn how to enjoy life instead of worrying about coming in first place. 

Shreveport, unfortunately, has also often been seen as the ugly step-child of Louisiana. South Louisiana doesn't like to claim us because we're not Cajun or Creole or from New Orleans. We're heavily influenced by East-Texas but aren't allowed to have Texas pride.

A lot of residents move here from those places. But that's their culture, not ours. So what do we gain from this besides an identity crisis?

When expectations are low, we are able to let an experience be exactly what it is. If something works well, people savor it and talk about it for weeks.

The sincerity and humility of our citizens are rare qualities.

The people of Shreveport-Bossier are some of the most sincere, humble people I've ever met.

There is generally less effort spent on "looking cool" and more energy put into "being cool" here. Residents just do what they love and share what they have.

Our creative community often feels like a big extended family. We look out for each other. That is definitely not the case in a lot of bigger cities known for attracting young people.

We have space to wander.

There are plenty of country roads and places you can see the stars within a ten minute drive. In the city, go for a walk in Norton's Art Gallery gardens or have a picnic at the Riverview Park. My friends in SBC Bike Social would probably say all of it is even better by bike.

By taking time to explore the world around us, we're able to notice things others don't usually see. Creating that space helps us to stay grounded and make better art.

We take time to connect and relax.

As important as it is to work hard, we have to make time to unwind and to simply be where we are. A lot of people get trapped in the rat race of Western consumerism and achievement.

That isn't as much of a problem in the South. We talk a little slower, sit on our porches, eat great food, and find excuses to enjoy each others company.

Culture is something you make.

The story we tell ourselves about our community is only useful if it helps us engage. There is definitely a need for professionals and experts, but more residents are realizing they can co-create who we're becoming as a city too.

As individuals, culture-making could look like volunteering, hosting a party, inviting people to go with you to a local event, or finally sharing your art/music in public.

Simply educating people about our legacy doesn't create pride about our city now. Helping citizens experience our culture in a new way is a much better approach.

A few great examples of this are the work being done by the Norla Preservation Project, the Unscene events that happened last year in the Shreveport Common, Highland Jazz and Blues Festival, and the Krewe of Highland Mardi Gras Parade.

Everyone has a story worth sharing.

We can fall into the trap of thinking we know everything there is to know about a place, the people, and the history.  In reality, we usually know very little.

All Y'all Live Storytelling events have reminded me of how fascinating local people are. These events are fun too. The next one is happening on March 14.

Going to local art openings and hearing live music are a few more ways to enjoy local stories. Everyone benefits from you putting your ideas, questions, and experiences into our community in any format.

There is always an opportunity for you to contribute.

The barrier to entry is extremely low here. Find a gap to fill. Do your research and try something.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I curious about?
  • What skills do I have to offer?
  • What does my community need?

There are disadvantages and phases of discouragement when you're starting something from the ground up. But if you're persistent and pay attention, you'll learn the most from those experiences. Your first business idea might not work. Your fifth has a much better chance.

Don't know where to start? Here are some ideas:

  • Contact a non-profit with a mission you connect to and see what they need help with.
  • If you are interested in entrepreneurship, check out Cohab.
  • Want to do interesting things around town with like-minded people? Come to an SBC Visionaries event. I'll help you anyway I can.
  • Need a place to share your ideas and knowledge? Start your own blog or submit an article to the Heliopolis.
Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
— Seth Godin

The great news is there is no one right way to thrive where you are. We have more opportunities than we've ever had before to improve our personal experiences in our cities.

What are you hoping to create?

Also, I know I left out so many wonderful resources around town. Please share your recommendations in the comments.