As I was growing up, my Dad worked in a manufacturing plant in our town. They produced pigment that was used as dye to color ink. I’m told their big customers were companies that printed magazines and the like.
One year (probably when I was about ten), business was great. As a consequence, my Dad worked eight days a week for the entire year. This is not a plug for the old Beatle tune (although I always liked that song). He actually worked the regular forty-hour week plus twenty-four hours of overtime every seven-day cycle.
As I recall, he got paid time and a half for overtime and double-time for Sundays and holidays. Just to give you an idea of how long ago this was, his gross pay that year was approximately $7000. I can remember thinking I would be rich if I could ever earn $10,000 a year. Inflation is a marvelous thing sometimes.
These days, a person can make the $10,000 I dreamed of in most part-time jobs. My Dad practically killed himself and still didn’t come close. Those were different times, to say the least.
“A stick of salami in the fridge”
We never had a lot, but we were certainly comfortable. We always had a roof over our head and a stick of salami in the fridge. What more could a growing boy ask for?
When it came to earning a living, my Dad always went the extra mile. As my Mom used to say, “He wasn’t afraid of work.” His work ethic was something to behold. It went far beyond his day job as well. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.
Going that extra mile was something that he and others modeled for me as I matured. It became a part of my understanding of life. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered where that extra mile came from.
The Extra Mile
During the time of Christ, the Roman army was the occupying force in the country of Israel. It was not uncommon for the soldiers to force the local citizenry to help them with any physical burden they had to carry. Because of that, Rome passed a law that limited the distance a citizen could be forced to tote the unwanted load. The limit was one mile.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made reference to this when he said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:41) As much as this concept probably annoys us, the extra mile has become a common part of our daily lexicon. We’re stuck with it now.
While I never thought of it during the days of my halcyon youth, my Dad was a living example of what Jesus was talking about. No one ever forced him to work all those hours. He did it for his family, and he did it of his own accord.
It would behoove us all to find ways to put in our eight days. It surely couldn’t hurt.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]