CALGARY — It’s a small thing really. But each day, rain or shine, 84-year-old Helen Jusic makes her way to the intersection of First Avenue and 12th Street N.E. in Calgary’s Bridgeland neighbourhood to do what she can for total strangers.
She stands and waves, blows kisses and offers up remote hugs. Sometimes there is a kind word. You’re beautiful. I love you. So nice to see you.
“Before the virus come I was very busy, I was volunteering,” Jusic says, but it all came to a halt with the pandemic.
That was hard. So she turned to her faith for guidance.
“I said, ‘dear Lord, let me do something.’ I felt like a bird in a cage,” she said.
On a trip past the intersection she waved at a bus driver. The driver smiled and waved back. Then a passing vehicle waved, and she waved back again.
“And I thought, ‘there is something I can do.’ And that’s how I started,” she said with a laugh.
As she stands on the corner, trying not to miss a single passerby, people can be heard from down the street yelling her name.
Her story has been shared by a new friend on social media, and picked up by followers around the world.
Kerry Bennett shared a video of Helen on her Instagram account, where it was picked up by others. Bennett had recently returned to Calgary from Toronto where she moved last year to expand her successful business. Then she bumped into Helen.
“I felt like I was getting a hug that I’d really been missing for a year kind of thing. She’s really brightened my world,” said Bennett.
Last week, Helen received flowers sent by admirers in Miami, Florida. Another sent flowers from Brazil. A silk scarf and a thank-you note also appeared in her mailbox.
But one note stood out among the rest. It’s only signed ‘Your Neighbour,’ but the note says they are a health care worker, dealing with death and grief every day.
“I use the drive home to clear my mind and my heart from all the heaviness before I come home to my family’s needs and wants,” reads the letter. “Your beautiful act of kindness keeps us all be present in the moment and makes us smile.”
Helen says she plans to keep at it for as long as she can, even once the pandemic starts to subside.