CALGARY – It really is a small thing. But every day, rain or shine, 84-year-old Helen Jusic makes her way to the intersection of First Avenue and 12th Street NE in the Bridgeland neighborhood of Calgary to do what she can for total strangers.
She stands and waves, blows kisses and offers distant hugs. Sometimes there is a kind word. You’re beautiful. I love you. Nice to see you.
“Before the virus came, I was very busy, I volunteered,” says Jusic, but everything came to a standstill 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.
While driving past the intersection, she waved to a bus driver. The driver smiled and waved back. Then a passing vehicle waved and she waved back again.
“And I thought, ‘I can do something.’ And that’s how I started, “she said with a laugh.
As she stands on the corner, trying not to miss a single passerby, you can hear people from the street shouting their names.
Her story was shared on social media by a new friend and picked up by followers around the world.
Kerry Bennett shared a video of Helen on her Instagram account where it was recorded by others. Bennett had recently returned to Calgary from Toronto, where she had relocated last year to expand her successful business. Then she bumped into Helen.
“I felt like I was getting a hug that I really missed for a year. It 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 thank you note also appeared in her mailbox.
But one note stood out from the rest. It’s just signed “Your Neighbor”, but the note says it is a health worker who deals with death and grief every day.
“I use the drive home to free my mind and heart from all the gravity before I get home to the needs and desires of my family,” the letter said. “Your beautiful act of kindness keeps us all present in the moment and makes us smile.”
Helen says she plans to hold onto it for as long as possible even as the pandemic subsides.