Helen Jusic, 84, has called Calgary’s community of Bridgeland home for almost 35 years.
But once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she felt lonely and isolated in her home. As a people person, she craved connection.
“I felt like a bird in a cage, and I thought, ‘What am I going to do?'”
She went out to find happiness and discovered she had something extraordinary to give. Her daily routine includes one hour to spread joy to her neighbourhood.
Every day, she stands at an intersection near her home giving countless strangers good wishes. She blows them kisses, sends them air hugs and tells them, “I love you.”
“I never dreamed something like this would happen. When I was young, I was introverted and shy and somehow I survived, and now I can’t believe that’s me,” Jusic said.
“I can just cry, the goodness. I have to thank God. Only God can arrange something like that.”
She said her simple gestures of love have taken away her anxiety and endeared an entire community.
“I didn’t realize it would be so meaningful. It spread like a virus,” Jusic said.
Kerry Bennett lives nearby.
“We are missing each other and hugs, and I saw Helen and got the hug I needed,” Bennett said.
Eileen March works down the street and notices Helen every evening.
“To me, it’s a ray of sunshine in what’s been a tough year, so it’s just a joy to see her out there every day,” March said.
Deb Lee has known Jusic for years.
“There she is, this little woman. It’s not about her; it’s about her hugs and just her warmth, so that’s Helen,” Lee said. “I think she’s a wonderful representative, a guiding angel.
“I think there’s a waver and smiler in all of us.”
Jusic plans to continue her ritual as long as she’s able.
“When people respond back to me, and most do, I feel overwhelmed,” Jusic said. “One gentleman brought me a rose, and I was watching The Bachelor on TV, and I thought, ‘Gosh, I got the rose from a nice gentleman.'”