My Turn: ‘Just because’ acts help brighten our world 

Russ Flagg saw a way to be helpful and mows the lawn for an elderly neighbor.

Russ Flagg saw a way to be helpful and mows the lawn for an elderly neighbor. CONTRIBUTED/CAROLE GARIEPY

Jonathan Aukstikalnis. Character is an important factor in selecting the recipient for the scholarship in his memory.

Jonathan Aukstikalnis. Character is an important factor in selecting the recipient for the scholarship in his memory. CONTRIBUTED/CAROLE GARIEPY


Published: 11-19-2023 2:15 PM

‘Just because I think you should.” Did you ever get that response when you asked someone to explain the reason why you were told to do something?

My mother sometimes said that to me. Maybe the request didn’t have a good explanation or it wasn’t something necessary to be done, but it was something she thought I should do and she usually made sure I did it. As I think back about it, the requests were to do good things, things above and beyond what was necessary.

One example is when my mother told me to give my doll to a poor girl. I loved the doll, even though I wasn’t playing with it anymore. My mother was giving her my outgrown clothing and I thought that was enough, but she thought the little girl would like a doll to enjoy just as I had enjoyed it.

I remember thinking I was giving the world’s best present. The clothing didn’t seem so important, but the doll was. In the end, it felt good giving something very special. And, it was “just because” my mother thought I should.

I was reminded of “just because” when my friend Jane told me about her husband’s old motorcycle that was stored in the garage. It hadn’t been ridden or working for many years, so she sold it for $100 to a dealer who thought he might he able to get it running. It was a great surprise to her when some weeks later he returned to her house and gave her another $100 and told her he was able to sell it for more than he had anticipated.

The dealer didn’t have to give her any additional money. Jane would never have known or expected more, but he did it “just because” he knew it was the right thing to do.

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I think of Anita from Philadelphia, who invited us to stay with her family when we went to doctor appointments in that city for our special-needs son Grant. She heard about us from a relative who lived in our town and wanted to do something to make our appointment trips more homey and comfortable than staying at motels.

She telephoned, introduced herself and said, “To thank God for my four healthy children, I would like you to stay with us when you come down for your doctor visits.” I could hardly believe my ears. We went and were warmly welcomed at their farm every month for the next three years. A lifetime friendship developed from her “just because” kind outreach that was above and beyond anything we ever could have expected.

A few weeks ago, Patricia, a reader from New Salem, wrote a kind note to express thanks for articles I submitted. It reminded me of how much words of appreciation mean. We often are quick to express criticism but slow to express thanks. I never would have known her thoughts or expected a note, but she made the extra effort to do it “just because” it was a thoughtful thing to do. Thank you, Patricia.

Our neighbor Russ mows our lawn. Gerry never complained that it was getting too difficult for him to do, but Russ saw that Gerry (age 91) is slowing down and decided that mowing our lawn would be a helpful thing to do. So, after he finishes his lawn, he continues with ours, a very unexpected “just because” deed. A good neighbor is a valuable gift.

The Aukstikalnis family of Phillipston offers a “just because” scholarship to a graduating senior each year in memory of their son Jonathan. The family wanted the scholarship to represent his positive, giving character.

His mom, Heidi, said he didn’t think like a lot of teenage kids did, and she told me about the day his friends were all playing a game outside and Jonathan went inside to play with a younger child who was left out. When Heidi asked why he wasn’t playing with his friends, he answered, “just because.”

She realized he felt sorry for the one left out. He cared. Character is a determining factor in choosing the recipient for the scholarship, a student who does things in school and the community “just because” they’re the right things to do, not for personal gain or public attention.

The Scouts have an excellent slogan, “Do a good turn daily.” Whether it’s bringing food to a sick neighbor, visiting or doing an errand for a shut-in, offering encouragement to someone having a difficult time, assisting a person to make a job easier, writing a caring note, or just saying a kind word. The “just because” acts make the world a better place.

Carole Gariepy lives in Phillipston.