Rite of passage parenting: The second mile
I flew back to the United States on the Fourth of July. I wanted to be home for my wife’s birthday on July 5.
For many years, I’ve been out of the country on her birthday. I’ve tried to convince her to change her birthday to some other date, but she won’t budge.
She picked me up at the airport and took me home. Now, I know that one of her favorite things is watching fireworks. She’s become quite an expert and commentator on these fireworks shows. I told her I wanted to go see the Fourth of July fireworks, which I knew would make her happy.
I also asked if we could stop at a store on the way there because I needed to pick up a birthday card. I was going to get one for her in Panama, but all their cards are in Spanish.
We stopped at a store right around the corner from one of those self-serve yogurt shops. Next to fireworks, my wife loves frozen yogurt. I said, “Let’s get some yogurt on our way to see the fireworks.”
I could the smile on her face. “Yogurt and fireworks in the same night. Life is good.” I pulled into the parking lot, and the sign was pulsating, “Closed.” I could feel her disappointment. Peering into the store past the “closed” sign, I could see two teenage boys cleaning up.
“Give me a minute,” I told my wife. I went to test the door and see if it was locked. It wasn’t. I stepped inside and asked if they were closed. They nodded their heads, saying, “We’re closing early because of the holiday.”
I told them my predicament: that I had flown all the way home from the country of Panama to be with my wife on her birthday. That she loved fireworks and yogurt. And did I mention that I flew all the way from Panama today for her birthday?
One of the young men, whom I took to be the manager, informed me that the cash register was already closed, and he couldn’t make change or take my money. I was about ready to turn around to leave when he added, “But you can come in and help yourself to some yogurt on the house.”
I told you two things my wife loves. Let me make that three. She loves fireworks, yogurt and the word “free.” In fact, she likes that word more than fireworks and yogurt put together.
I stepped outside and motioned for her to come inside the store. She whispered, “They’re closed.”
“They’re reopening just for you,” I said. “And whatever you want is on the house.” She entered the store with a big smile.
This alone would make a great story, but these young men went one step further. The young manager said, “We’ve put all the toppings away for the night, but if you tell us what you want, we’ll get it out.”
It must have been a funny sight: two not-so-newlyweds scooting from flavor to flavor trying to figure out what we wanted. We told them the toppings we would like, and they brought them out and sprinkled them over our yogurt.
I thanked the young men for their kindness and generosity, and as we were walking out, they told my wife, “Happy Birthday!”
There are not many people in this world today who choose to go above and beyond. Those young men blessed my wife and, in the process, blessed me. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matt. 5:41). I’ve heard it said that the first mile is the trial mile; the second mile is the smile mile. The first mile you do because you’re obligated. The second mile comes from your heart.
In Jesus’ time, if a Roman solider saw a young Jewish male, he could command him to carry his backpack for a mile. The young men resented this law, and when they reached the mile marker, they would throw off the pack, saying, “Not an inch more. I’ve done my duty.”
Not much has changed since Jesus’ time. In this day and age, it’s hard to get someone to go even the first mile. In fact, you’re fortunate if you can get people to do the job you paid them to do, let alone go the second mile.
But Jesus said we should stand out from the world. And going the second mile will put a smile in our heart because we are walking out His life.
Thanks to the two young men at Peachwave Yogurt in the Tulsa Hills Shopping Center. You may be yogurt-sellers, but to my wife and me, you’re second-milers.