There is a movie that I watched at the Toronto International Film Festival called, ‘Room’. In the movie, a boy and his mother lived in a backyard shed after she was kidnapped seven years earlier and got pregnant with her son, in captivity. What should have been a primarily devastating story, had a very profound message.
Our quality of life has very little to do with our circumstances and has everything to do with how we choose to deal with our circumstances. It turns out that the lead character was able to create quite a pleasant upbringing for a five year old boy who never left that shed. She made up games, they did daily exercise, she schooled him the best that she could and he was quite content, creative, playful, loving, intelligent and well adjusted.
It was only when they were rescued that her life began to truly fall apart. When she let her guard down, was no longer in survival mode and had assistance with her son, she began to unravel. She went into her head about the situation that they had endured. She became depressed, suicidal, isolated and withdrawn. Even though she was now with her family, in a safe environment, free and supported, she became miserable; perhaps even more miserable than when she was a prisoner.
Even when our circumstances and life situations are less than ideal, we can still maintain a high quality of life. The quality of our life is not determined by how much we own, the amount of money in our bank account, the fanciness of our vehicle, the size of our home or the clothes on our back. The quality of our life is determined by how we spend our time, what we think about during that time and how much fun, laughter, connection, love, passions, interests and joy we feel during our days.
When our community is struggling, fearing for loss of jobs, financially worried, having difficulty paying bills, concerned for our future and the future of our families, it is how we spend our time, what we think about during that time and how much fun, laughter, connection, love, passions, interests and joy we feel during our days. It is not about the material items around us – it is about making the most of what we do have and capitalizing on that.
When families do not have enough money to go to Disneyland or Wonderland, they can go to Bellevue Park and John Rhodes, beaches, skating arenas and trails. When families do not have enough to own a pool, stay at a hotel with a pool or visit friends with pools, they can go to community pools and splash parks, which are free or affordable.
When people are not able to afford to pay for Netflix or buy DVD’s or subscribe to movie or television packages, they can go to the library and sign out DVD’s and music and books, at no cost. When people are unable to afford to join the Y.M.C.A. or gyms or organized teams or clubs, they can use the hub trail, parks, ride bicycles in the bike park and hang out by the fountain and the outdoor gym area near the Art Gallery.
When community events, green spaces and recreational activities are available and affordable for the public to participate in and enjoy, it helps to ease the pain of the economic circumstances that affect thousands of individuals and families in the community. We can still enjoy quality of life, no matter what socioeconomic situations we fall into.
When making decisions about moving ourselves and our community forward, we must keep in mind that we can live smaller and simpler and get to the basics of what actually makes us happy. What makes us happy is time and activities doing things we enjoy, with the people we love and care about. The rest is just gravy.
If we can put quality of life first on our list, when making any decisions, we will often find that we are willing to let go of what we think we need and then come up with creative solutions about what will bring a smile to our face and a skip in our step.
Fountains make me happy, seeing boats pulling into the marina makes me happy, going for a ride on a ferry boat makes me happy, walking on the boardwalk makes me happy, seeing old ships, artwork, nature, trails, taking photos of ducks and birds and strolling through parks makes me happy, watching children playing and laughing makes me happy, seeing families outdoors, in the sunshine and fresh air, makes me happy.
If we can design our community around our free and leisure time, it will make getting through our busy lives and workdays, just a little easier. We will have so much to do, see, participate in and it won’t break the bank. We can become the meeting place to relax, play, have fun, connect with each other and make the most of our days. If only, we could all get on the same page, we can become the hub of all that is fun and good.
We can create a destination for locals and tourists to merge and take in all that life has to offer. We can become a welcoming centre for affordable, fun, interesting, educational, historical, artistic, musical, event based concerts, conferences, sports, tournaments, competitions, races, marathons, water sports, cycling, snowmobiling, skating, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and more. We can embrace our natural surroundings and highlight what is great about where we live.
Why not make Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding areas the place where people want to visit, live and play, because we demonstrate how we can still live dynamic, amazing, fun, quality lives, despite our annual income. Let’s do this town right and decide, as a whole, that we will thrive, blossom and grow, no matter what the economy is doing around us. Then, watch how we flourish. Let’s take our home to a new level by deciding that our number one priority is quality of life, during our down time. Let’s get creative. Let’s get bold.
‘I’m not naive. I realize that quality of life and income are inextricably bound together, but sooner or later we’re going to have to ask ourselves whether it is possible to make life more meaningful without charging it to Visa.’ ~ Daron Hicklin