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Like a sunny heart

It was a day during the pandemic… A day when the small pleasures shared in a confined and privileged family doubled in richness, while freedoms were impoverished according to the ordered recommendations of public health. Geneviève and her partner, parents of two sons on the autism spectrum, lived in a gentle, comfortable family environment. There was no need to watch for their children’s occasional difficulties in communicating or relating to others. No need to spare them from an overdose of stimuli that might trigger a fit of irritability or tears. All was well.

But the lockdown was never-ending. Inevitably, the two boys, Laurent and Éliot, slowly began to narrow their field of interests and, insidiously, to withdraw into themselves. Geneviève and her husband, attentive and sensitive, quickly set about finding a solution to foster their curiosity and social skills.

As a family, they joined the volunteer team at Little Brothers of Lévis, and were soon matched like a sunny heart spreading its many rays to form a luminous circle of Great Friends: Mrs. Jocelyne, Mrs. Gisèle, Mr. Denis, Mr. André… A sunny heart shining with a thousand little attentions.

Laurent has developed a taste for visiting, meeting and sharing, and at the age of 13, he is still a Little Brothers volunteer.

He was only 10 when he started visiting his Great Friend Mrs. St-Amant with his mother. His first love. From the very first moments, the bond that united them like a hyphen from one heart to another, forming a rhyming composite whole: Laurent and Mrs. St-Amant like two magnets, was obvious.

The joy that broke out on Mrs. St-Amant’s face in a broad smile when Laurent and Geneviève entered her room. They laughed. They chatted about their passion for cats. As soon as Laurent had read a comic book at home, he was quick to lend it to Mrs. St-Amant, who loved comics. From time to time, Geneviève would invite her on “girls’ getaways” to the mall for shopping, walks, outings, coffee and fun. Mrs. St-Amant collected stuffed animals, and Laurent took great care to add to her collection. On the way to Mrs. St-Amant’s home, Laurent would sometimes pick flowers from neighbors’ flowerbeds along the sidewalks and give them to her.

xperience of volunteering with Great Friends has taught her the art of letting go of any expectations one might have of other people: “I was afraid of not measuring up, but the fact of not having any expectations of other people or of myself means that I’m always in for surprises”. She goes on to say that when she goes to meet a Great Friend, the visit may last 15 minutes, it may not be a good day, moods may be sullen or more irritable, eh! Well, so be it! That’s the way it is. It lasts 15 minutes, and those 15 minutes are what they are.

Laurent insists that this adventure is teaching him the broader meaning of family. I’ve learned to welcome someone into our family,” he says, “the people we love grow inside us, we create bonds and it becomes bigger than the typical family. His words, clothed in candor and great intelligence, stun our hearts… He continues: “It’s good for us volunteers too, it confirms that giving is also receiving…”

But alas, one day Laurent and Geneviève received the call they had been dreading. Mrs. St-Amant had left this world without them consciously saying goodbye. The director of the nursing home took it upon herself to keep one of Mrs. St-Amant’s plush toys, a lovable Scooby-Doo, and entrust it to Laurent. Small consolation for his loss, but oh so delicate and soothing for the memory of the heart.

What a story this is, Laurent and Geneviève’s, reminding us of the importance of enjoying every moment as if it were our last, that every second counts, that every encounter “is” as it is, neither good nor bad, but carrying a link, one of those social hyphens that makes the big world smaller and, above all, less lonely…

Come and make your sunny heart shine too, dear volunteers, by giving the gift of yourself.

Thank you Laurent and Geneviève for warming our hearts!

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