In the centre of Magog, a working-class town in the Estrie region of Quebec, near Lake Memphremagog, where the multi-millionaires of Québec gather, there is a modest business, a smoke den and a restaurant, frequented by neighbourhood workers who find food and a warm home there. They also used to be able to buy lottery tickets there, until the day Loto Quebec withdrew the owners’ license. The store lost so much income as a result that its survival was threatened. It was mistakes, and not dishonest practices, that led to the loss of the permit, and this prompted a neighbour to appeal on behalf of the owners and to commit to working with them so that the mistakes wouldn’t be repeated. A few weeks later, Loto Québec’s representative returned their license. A place that created belonging was thus protected, thanks to the vigilance of those most affected – its neighbours – and to the flexibility of a large organization.
This story illustrates the simplest, most natural, and least costly way to act so as to limit loneliness: protect the social ties that already exist. Nevertheless, it still needed a neighbour with enough compassion, energy, and time to listen to the owners and to intervene with Loto Québec. Happily, the neighbour knew the government agency’s representative. They had met through one of the organizations in which the neighbour was an active member. This exemplary citizen was, himself, the owner of another convivial establishment: a small hair salon where you could stop in – without seeming strange – for a conversation and not necessarily a haircut.