A Tale of Two Communities

Once upon a time there were two communities; Happyville and Sadville.  The two towns were exactly alike except for one big difference. They both had the same number of people, the same kinds of houses  and were next to each other on the same road. They both had mayors that were genuinely concerned for the welfare of their communities. But for some reason Happyville seemed to be a dynamic and thriving place to live while Sadville, well it was sad.

In Happyville, the parks and playgrounds were always busy while in Sadville, people seemed to stay in their homes. Although they both had parks beautiful flowers and playgrounds, in Sadville the parks felt dreary. The good folks of Sadville looked at Happyville just down the road with envy where it seemed like there were always new businesses opening up. They just couldn’t understand why they seemed to be so lucky over in Happyville.

The good folks of Sadville  talked about it a lot and it always came around to the same answer. ”They must have the politicians in their pocket, they must be cheating someway.”

The reality was very different. Both towns were great at coming up with ideas on how to make their towns better, but how they handled it was very different.

In Sadville, when an idea came up, the town divided into either two or three groups. One group was all for the idea, while another group saw nothing but problems. The third group stood on the side, stayed out of the fray and said ”there they go again, nothing ever happens here.” The idea seemed to deepen the divisive fissures in the community until people threw up their hands in exasperation and the third group relished in being right.

Meanwhile over in Happyville, when a similar idea was put forward, just like in Sadville, not everyone agreed with it. But instead of dividing into camps, they came together and talked out their differences. They talked a lot and out of all that talking, finally most people could agree on a solution that was considered good for the town.

There were other differences as well. Although both towns had the same services like foodbanks, social services, doctors, parks and childcare, there was something very different in how they treated each other. The people who lived alone in Happyville always had someone dropping in on them to see how they were while in Sadville, these same people went weeks without seeing anyone. Once in Sadville, and older lady fell down in her home and it was 4 days before anyone found her. That would never happen in Happyville.

When problems showed up in Sadville, people noticed the problem and immediately said “They should do something about it” and when nobody did anything, they said “Just like them to never do anything for us.” Meanwhile just down the road in Happyville, when a problem showed up, there were always a few citizens (Usually different ones each time) who said “we got to do something about this.” And they did.

So why is it that these two communities that are so similar are also so different?

Well, years ago (three to be exact) the citizens of Happyville were just like the citizens of Sadville. But then something happened. A couple of citizens got together and said “I am tired of all this divisiveness and infighting that kills the good ideas. Let’s do something about it.” And so they did.

They knew it was a big problem that would be a challenge. They talked to other towns, they read articles and they scoured the internet looking for how to turn their town around. Eventually they came across something called the Happy Community Project.

These good citizens contacted the Happy Community Project, and after lots of conversation and checking out the facts, they made a decision. They decided to start cautiously at first and see what happens.

They started slowly with the Happy Community Project, but quickly saw the results. Soon their community started doing things together, people started coming out of their houses and as it progressed, more and more people asked how they could help. The more this happened, the more things happened and after about a year, people started saying “Wow, this is a great town, there is so much happening here”. Of course they had their nay-sayers, but after a few months when most people saw where there town was going, nobody wanted to listen to the nay-sayers and they went quiet. After three years of starting the Happy Community Project, Happyville became a truly happy town confident in their future. They knew that together, they could deal with anything that came up and there was always a helping hand nearby.

It is now normal for people in Happyville to say “We should do something about that.” Everyone has sense of belonging and because they know they belong, they feel they have to also do something for the community. They also know with confidence that the community will be there for them if they need help. As one person said: “My community gives me everything I need to be happy; I have purpose and meaning, lots of friends, a strong sense of belonging and I know that help is always nearby.”

The Mayors of Happyville and Sadville have started talking with each other and now Sadville is also considering asking the Happy Community Project for help. I wonder what they will do?

The above story is based on actual facts from the many communities we have been involved with.

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