For the past 10 years Village Works has been growing in Durham Region where we’re based. At first we could only afford to be in the residential parts of the industrial area of the city. Much of our time there was spent battling inconsiderate neighbors and chemical assaults from the local businesses. We had people, who worked but did not live in the area, tell us to get out, don’t breathe the air, etc. There were things going on in that neighborhood’s plants that went well beyond environmental law’s immense capacity to forgive. But nothing was ever done about it. No one cared enough; local politicians didn’t want to rock the boat with the unions who they depended upon for their vote.

Village Works moved in the past couple of weeks. We woke up one morning in industrial grumpy land and moved 10 minutes down the road to paradise. Suddenly, we’re amongst the civilized. We’re amongst people who say hi in the morning rather than avert their eyes should they be forced to make contact. We’re amongst people who are graceful and happy.

You would think the place I describe where we came from as being a land of struggle and poverty, but the truth is, the place we left has the highest income per capita in Canada. It is the richest place in Canada and it’s full of a bunch of grumpy, inconsiderate Neanderthals.

OK, I’m not bitter, because I escaped to paradise, but I bring up the point because this wealth that our governments lust after and promise doesn’t equate to happiness or quality of life. Money doesn’t equal grace or tolerance. If someone is going after money just for the sake of money, so willing to pollute the air around them, dump their cigarette butts out their windows, and give a stranger the finger just for wanting to be let into a traffic line – what exactly are we striving here for? To keep that alive? To celebrate it? To demand it takes priority over me and my life, my needs?

Both the US and Canada right now are in a struggle for civility. It is a war between those that think money rules and those that think life is a bit more complex than that. Money will win, money always wins. But the people in these wars are not winning, they are not contributing to make this a better place, they are not happy, they are destroying the very fabric of what we should be cherishing, a peaceful, simplistic and happy place to live.

The real wisdom in all of this is that happiness is free and available to all of us. If we work amongst the grumpy then we have a choice to reinvent the work place so it’s a happy one, this is not impossible but it does require leadership that cares about culture and knows its importance. The other choice is to remove ourselves from the environment and attract what we need to be happy in life. Sometimes that may be just a few minutes down the road.

Whether you’re making a six figure income or a few pence a day, the only real truth is that when you live and work amongst happy people, it’s a lot easier to be happy yourself.


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