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Going the Extra Mile

February 6, 2013

In Roman times, the Roman practice of commandeering civilians or their property (mules, horses, oxen, camels, carts, wagons, etc.) to carry the luggage or other burden of military personnel for one mile was the law of the land. During those times the Romans were imperialists and they had conquered most of the world, ruling it with an iron hand. Under this law, if a Roman Soldier passed you he could tell you to carry his pack for up to one mile in any direction. By law you were forced to go with him, carrying his pack. The soldier, however, could not compel you to go further than one mile. Many people were offended by that law and hated the brutal and despotic rule of the Roman Empire, but obeyed the law so as not to be arrested; They begrudgingly followed the one mile law and that was it, not an inch more.

No one likes to be made to do someone else’s work. At the very least, we are apt to complain, argue, or simply refuse to be used. Being compelled to engage in “community service” against your will, by law, is inconvenient, demeaning and, perhaps, unjust. What would happen if we chose to take the sting out of the situation by being willing to carry such a burden an extra mile with a cheerful attitude? Even though the law was despised, some chose to not only obey the law, but go “an extra mile” and do it happily.

This concept of going the extra mile has evolved through the centuries and it now means to live above the benchmark, treating people with benevolence, deference, and consideration regardless of what they are entitled to.  In our day, the principle is that it is not enough to do only what is requested or required. In order to find real happiness and success in our lives, we should give charitably of ourselves beyond what is expected of us. Going the extra mile as a philosophy is not based on logic, feelings, or emotions but on something we can all control: choice. We can choose to act out of affection or appreciation for others, not because they are entitled to it, not because it is demanded of us, and not even because we feel like it, but simply because it is our choice to do so. It involves aiming for excellence and finding pride and satisfaction in the process. The principle of going the extra mile could totally transform our society to one where we are not ruled by our own selfish motives, but, instead, by generosity and goodwill to others.

Let’s all try to do more than what is expected, taking total control of our lives by the conscious, mindful act of giving our time, energy, or resources, as our contribution, not because we are required to do so, but because we have made the conscious choice to do so.

 – Scoutmaster Bob

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