"Choosing a Second Mile"

"Choosing a Second Mile"

“Choosing a Second Mile”

(Editor’s Note: This article is more than a listing of “second-mile” activities carried out by members of the C.P.S. unit at Greystone State Hospital. It is a commentary on the “second-mile” philosophy and the value of applying it to the circumstances of conscription under which we find ourselves in C.P.S. It also contains pertinent and significant suggestions for our thinking on peacetime conscription. Frank Wright, Jr., Educational Director at the Greystone unit, is responsible for this article and for much of the leadership of “second-mile” activities at Greystone.)

The lessons of history, and especially of our world today, show unquestionably that, unless we are moved by an inner compulsion, we shall certainly be moved by an outer tyranny. Slowly, as we work under conscription in Civilian Public Service, we are coming to acknowledge the inevitable corollary of this truth: that when we are moved by an outer tyranny, the only antidote for the demoralization of character which is an unescapable result of such tyranny, is to allow our inner compulsion to place requirements on us which go beyond the requirements of the outer tyranny. “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

The men of C.P.S. Unit No. 77 at Greystone Park State Hospital, realizing this truth, have been seeking some “second-mile” opportunities for service and have carried on such activities under the guidance of a Community Service Committee, which takes its place as a major committee alongside religious, educational, and other committees. This committee, according to its charge in the unit constitution, “shall be concerned with the unit’s contribution to the hospital and the communities in which we now live and to which we will return; shall develop programs to be presented to other groups and organizations; shall undertake a program of service for patients of the institution; and shall be alert to the opportunities to serve in the general community in keeping with our faith and testimony.”

Under this charge, the following activities have been or are being carried on:

1. Library service to the wards, discontinued by the hospital because of lack of help, has been reinstated by the use of volunteer C.P.S. help.

2. Many C.P.S. men gave their own time to package 3,000 pounds of candy for distribution to the 6,000 patients of the institution at Christmas.

3. A group of C.P.S. men and wives sang Christmas carols outside of ward windows on Christmas Eve.

4. Plans have been made to increase recreational facilities for on-ward patients by making games and puzzles in the wood-working shop and placing these on the wards.

5. Christmas baskets, consisting of a good dinner and individual gifts for each member of four needy families in the community, were distributed on Christmas Eve by delegations of six to eight unit members who had a little Christmas celebration (reading of Luke’s story, carols, etc.) in each home. Sixty dollars to cover expenses were collected in a special Sunday offering for the purpose.

6. Most of the unit members are on the charity blood donor list for a nearby general hospital which is experiencing great difficulty in getting blood for needy civilian patiants [sic]. Four emergency transfusions have already been given by unit members.

7. The unit has contributed money to certain community appeals when it felt the appeal was in line with our convictions.

8. Several individuals are singing in a nearby church choir; a unit quartet has given programs in several nearby churches; a few men are volunteer leaders of boys clubs in a Settlement House in the nearby town; and several other possibilities are being developed for additional service.

All of these activities are being done quietly and without fanfare. They give the men of C.P.S. No. 77 an increased sense of personal worth; they are worthwhile service for needy men; they show the general public that C.P.S. men are wanting to do more than ‘just sit the war out’ and, most important of all, these activities are an expression of the Christian motivation which must compel us to acts of compassion and service over and above the demands of a compulsory system if we are to be triumphant over and not subservient to such a system.


--Taken from Mennonite Central Committee Bulletin. Vol. 3, No. 15. February 22, 1945. In "Publications, MCC Bulletin, later CPS Bulletin. Vol. 1-6, 1942-1947," folder 6/12, series IX-13-1. MCC Records Collection, Akron, PA.