Thursday, December 14, 2017

How would you like to live in a happy city?

October 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Free and Laughing, Love

My "I Love TO" lapel pin from the Toronto Community Foundation

How do we get a happy city?

This was the essential theme of an address by Rahul Bhardwaj, the CEO of Toronto Community Foundation (TCF) at a Ramsay Talks luncheon yesterday.   Rahul was there ostensibly to present the Vital Signs 2012 Report on Toronto as a liveable city.  Instead, he upped the ante and posited that we move from “liveability” to happiness.

As I listened to him speak of the three legs of city life – how the city moves, how it works and how it lives, I thought – “So which comes first – happy city or happy citizens”?  Do we wait for the city to be happy?  Or is our own happiness a critical part of the sum of happiness of the city?  Indeed, looking at the vital signs of happiness, we are really about creating a framework for a happy city.  But frameworks do not make happiness – what does, is the decision of each and every one of us to play our part and be happy.

The first step in playing our part is to recognize and appreciate the beautiful things about our city that already are part of its framework for happiness.  Here are some of the things I appreciate about Toronto:

  1. The TTC – YES my fellow Torontonians, the TTC.  I love it – it saves me money, as I don’t need to own a car.  It saves me time.  It saves me aggravation, as I simply sit (or sometimes stand) and read or people watch, rather than fighting traffic.  It’s entertainment – no better place to people-watch!  Plus in rush hour, the musicians in the stations are just marvelous!  Could it be better?  Of course!  There’s nothing in this world that can’t be improved.  But I give thanks for the TTC every day
  2. The ravines – my life has been infinitely enriched every weekend on my long runs through the ravines.  I constantly marvel at the vision and insight of city fathers (probably some city mothers too) who envisaged this system in the 1950s and made it happen.  The ravines provide woodland and wilderness right in the city – gushing rivers (recently with salmon heading upstream!), wildlife (I have seen rabbits, a tortoise, coyotes, deer, foxes) and paved paths that wend along the rivers to Lake Ontario presenting changing flora with each season.   All a few minutes from my home!  Oh how I give thanks!
  3. The diverse neighbourhoods – it seems that every ethnicity has their own neighbourhood.  And they are such fun to explore.  My favourite is Kensington Market, which is less of a specific ethnicity and more of a lifestyle – I call it an urban Negril (Negril being the 6-mile beach on the western point of Jamaica where hippies hung out in the 1960s, smoked ganja and drank mushroom tea).
  4. The free stuff – this city knows how to get people on the street and having fun – Nuit Blanche, Jazz Festival, Illuminato, TIFF, Harbourfront, street fairs every weekend in summer – tons of fun and usually at little or no cost
  5. The bombardment of culture of the widest possible diversity – music, dance, art abound and all in the most amazing performance spaces.  I have learned that Toronto is a stop on North American tours of major artistes.  They come in droves – never a dull moment in this city!
  6. The LIBRARY!  When i was packing up to leave Jamaica 3 years ago, I was amazed at how many books I had accumulated.  I sold or gave away most of them and decided that despite being an avid reader, I would never again build up such a hoard.  The Toronto Public Library system has been an absolute delight – I read much more than when I was in Jamaica and read a wider variety of literature.  Books, e-books, DVDs – in abundance and easily accessible!  Reader heaven!


I could go on and on.  I love this city.   Toronto already provides me with a framework for my happiness.  But it’s up to me to see and appreciate it.  For every one of the things I mentioned above, there are people who will see them in a negative light (especially the TTC – lol).  Appreciating Toronto doesn’t lead to complacency or letting those charged with the responsibility of city-building off the hook – indeed, our happiness energises others and opens new possibilities for improvement and collaboration.  I believe it’s much better to build from the positives than from negatives.

Happy cities are made up of happy citizens.  I believe that happy citizens come first.  No waiting for mayor, city council, TCF or whoever else to make Toronto happy.  Are you looking at Toronto (or wherever you live) with happy eyes?  Happiness really is an inside job!


Share your own happy Toronto experiences in the COMMENTS!




8 Responses to “How would you like to live in a happy city?”
  1. Terri Orane says:

    TO the happy city !
    Thank you for sharing this. I have visited TO (my initials, ha ha ha) several times many,many years ago and enjoyed each of my visits, but I Now I cannot wait to come and visit and experience it with my new knowledge of the amazing HAPPY city.

    This should be read by EVERYONE in EVERY city, EVERYWHERE!

    Thank you so much

  2. Diana says:

    all I can say is *SIGH*
    this is what I miss about living in the “1st world”–pretty much everything you mentioned here
    and one thing you didn’t mention but which is implicit — the freedom to move around in the public space without fearing for your safety. Do you know how priceless that is?

  3. Marguerite Orane says:

    Yes Diana – that’s certainly a very important part of being a happy citizen – the freedom to move around safely. It IS priceless and I treasure it

  4. Marguerite Orane says:

    Yes Terri – time for you to come visit!

  5. Paulash says:

    I’ve recently moved to TO from NYC. While NYC has a lot to offer, for all the reasons you’ve listed and countless more, I love it here and have never looked back!

  6. Marguerite Orane says:

    I agree Paulash. Sometimes I think of Toronto as a mini-NYC – all the wonderful sights, sounds and activity of NYC yet much more accessible and green! I think we “newbies” love it more than many “natives”.



  7. Sharon says:

    Loved your blog on happiness in the city Marguerite! And I agree with it all and what better timing with it being Thanksgiving! We all have much to be grateful for and its definitely an “inside mind job” of positive affirmations! I especially love the ravines/parklands right in the heart of the city. Thank you for being you…with all your positive energy and thoughts! You make the world a much HAPPIER place – notice I said the world and not just Toronto because happy people make others around them happier and it just keeps spreading! 🙂

  8. Marguerite Orane says:

    Thank you Sharon. And of course I do have you to thank for introducing me to the ravines! I can never stop marveling! Each run brings some new experience (even getting lost was fun) and it always gets that it’s right here in the city! A real blessing.

    And thanks for your lovely words about spreading happiness – not only is it an inside job, it’s contagious!

    All love and blessings to you