Extra Mile Love

April 29th, 2011 / 22 Comments

Students in my class on love made a positive difference this semester. The course explores love in theology, science, and society. Students went the extra mile to help others.

As part of the curriculum I asked students to “go above and beyond” their normal lives to do good to others. I called this the “Extra Mile Love Project,” in light of Jesus’ teaching to go a mile more than what is asked of us. More than 40 students chose a love project that required them to move outside their comfort zones to be helpful.

Loving a Beggar

Joshua Mundy accepted the Extra Mile Love Project challenge and did his good deed on Valentine’s Day, 2011. Joshua met a homeless man panhandling near Wal-Mart that day. 

The man was thin, had a long scruffy beard, and was wearing heavy camouflage clothing with thick black boots. He held a sign: “Homeless, Hungry and No Clean Water.” 

Joshua felt like God was asking him to talk with this man.  “Hey, are you all right?” he asked.

“I am just trying to get dinner,” was the response.

“Is it all right if I buy you groceries?” Joshua asked. The man, Richard, accepted. 

As they walked the store aisles, Richard explained the series of misfortunate events that led to his homelessness. Richard was riding his bike home from a grocery store when a truck “doored” him, knocking him off his bike and injuring him.  Luckily, a pedestrian called an ambulance.  Richard suffered from six broken ribs, a minor concussion, and a severely bruised arm. 

All of Richard’s money went to paying his medical bills. When the money dried up, he began living on the edge of someone’s property.

Richard only selected a few items from Wal-Mart’s shelves that day. Joshua paid $16.66 for them. But Joshua learned his relatively minor sacrifice could make a big difference.

Helping the Blind

For her Extra Mile Love Project, Macey Mendez-Vigo walked once a week with Sandy, a blind member of the community.  Sandy’s blindness made her fearful of doing outside activities. But walking with Macey allowed Sandy to explore the world beyond her home.

Sandy often said, “You have no idea how much this means to me!” She seemed rejuvenated having Macey as a walking companion and finding new avenues for exercise.

Macey says that this love project stretched her. Macey is herself an introvert who feels nervous meeting new people. She has a busy schedule as a college student. But this experience added to the passion Macey has for her chosen field of study, psychology.

Macey says this project led her to feel greater compassion for those in need. She believes that with graduate work in clinical psychology, she will be able to influence many more lives. Macey learned through this Extra Mile Project that she could make a positive impact on another life. 

Ministering to the Dying

Student, Lindsay LaShelle, volunteered with a hospice organization to show Extra Mile love. She said she wanted “the opportunity to love on someone, to be a comfort or a listening ear as the end of life approached.”

Lindsay found that although she had come to sit with someone who was dying, the people caring for the patient seemed to benefit most from her visits. They were grateful and relieved just by her presence.

As expected, the person Lindsay saw passed away after a few months of her beginning to visit. Lindsay says she learned a lot through the experience. While she usually likes to help people by doing things for them, this Extra Mile Love Project taught her that love sometimes calls us to sit, listen, and be present to others.

Encouraging the Disenfranchised

A student who wishes to remain nameless decided to be someone’s “secret friend” for the university semester.  This student wrote encouraging notes and sent anonymous gifts to a girl who wasn’t quite as social as other girls were.

This secret friend suffered from fibromyalgia, which is a disease that causes constant pain. “She is a sweet girl,” says the student. “She is just extremely shy. She has had a very hard life up to this point and has a very hard time trusting people.” 

The student used Facebook to encourage her secret friend. “It was always so exciting to get on Facebook and see what her friend had to say about her note or gift for the day,” said the student. “It was nice to get a response from her too.”  The girl never discovered the student’s identity.

“All I did for my Extra Mile Love Project was write little notes and send inexpensive gifts every day,” said the student. “But I could tell it gave her hope and brought her happiness.”

Caring for Children and Busy Parents

Amanda Snyder chose to babysit weekly for some leaders at her church. Each week, Amanda watched movies and played games with the kids. She expected the gift of babysitting to be easy. But it took more time than she expected, and giving up free time to help others is not easy for a busy college student.

The rewards for this work were many, says Amanda. The leaders were able to help others in the church and not worry about watching their own kids. Amanda developed friendships with people she had not known well previously. And she found she enjoyed babysitting. She plans to continue helping with kids as she prepares for a career after college.

Helping the Poor

Another student who wishes to remain nameless planned an Extra Mile Love Project for his friend, George. George comes from a family whose total income is below to poverty line. Although a university student, he cannot afford money for laundry. George often wears clothes many days in a row. He is embarrassed that his clothes become filthy and odorous.

For his project, this student decided to send ten dollars in quarters and laundry detergent anonymously for six weeks. This required some sacrifice, because the student didn’t have much money himself.

In the weeks that followed, George’s confidence grew. He stopped having body odor and his clothes were consistently cleaned and washed. George allowed himself to get closer in physical proximity to other people. Something as simple as laundry was holding George back so much in his confidence and personal life. The student plans to continue this gift of cleanliness.

Buying Food

Aaron Blackwill decided to accept the Extra Mile Love Project challenge by paying for someone’s groceries. While at Wal-Mart, Aaron asked an elderly man if he could pay for the small basket of food the man was carrying to the cash register. The man laughed and said, “That’s really strange!” But he accepted the offer.

This stranger seemed happier and touched by Aaron’s kindness. “This little experience has changed me for the better,” Aaron says. “I realize now that we can do small things everyday to show love and kindness to someone.”

Aaron plans to continue doing this kind of thing in the future. “The action of brightening someone’s day could, in turn, create positive effects for other encounters,” says Aaron, “spreading a happier day for many people.”

Going the Extra Mile Promotes Well-Being

I encourage students to express love in the little and mundane activities of life. But going the Extra Mile by planning a gift of love that stretches the giver can bring great rewards.

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Jay Akkerman

Thanks for sharing these stories from your students, Tom. In an age when too many are cynical about today’s young people, I appreciate you shining the light on how generous and caring our NNU students are about being Jesus’ hands and feet in the world today.

Paul DeBaufer

Very good!Your students chose some very good ways to demonstrate God’s love in their community.

I am touched by the story of George. Many of us don’t realize the negative impact of having to go unwashed has on self-esteem and dignity . The simple act of providing for laundry to be done and showers to be taken can restore a person’s sense of dignity and self-worth which in turn can aid in relationship.

Chuck Queen

Great idea. Loved the way you challenged and empowered your students to apply a theology of love in the daily grind.

Dr. Greg Norell DDS

Love is great it’s better than hate.
But God does hate somethings and
some people.  “Jacob have I loved,
Essau have I hated.” “The wrath of
God abides on an unsaved Christ
rejecting man.”  “God is angry with
the wicked daily.”  To be a good lover
one has to hate somethings also. 
Remember GOD is love! But, love is not

Martijn van Beveren

Amazing to see all these students go the extra mile. A good motivation for people to start with all these good things.

A great read that even helps me to see how I can do something extra for people I meet. Thx for sharing Tom.

Dan Benjamin

This idea of going the extra mile for somebody is a great idea for helping people grow as a person, especially for us students.  It encourages us to look beyond ourselves and our everyday life and routine.  To keep an open eye on our surroundings, the people in them and their needs; things that are typically looked over for sake of convenience.  Going the extra mile for somebody whom we would not typically give special attention teaches us to love one another.  And in my opinion, this is our greatest call in life:  to show love to others.

Phil Okuyama

I believe that given our busy lives, in addition to the current economic downdraft that we live in, it is not hard to dismiss the needs of others.  In times like this, showing love towards our neighbors is one of the last things that I tend to think about.., if at all.  After reading the stories above, I know that I’ve been guilty of having a callused and indefferent attitude towards those less fortunate than I am.  I’ve gotten so caught up in what I need to accomplish that I’ve treated some people as if they had the power of invisibility.  It is not so much as them being invisible, as much as, me being blind. The time has come for me to rethink my priorities and start doing what I’ve been ignoring all along- making those invisible people visible.  I need to become a positive influence and actively participate in helping someone who might be in need of a helping hand.

Skylar Hanna

I think this is a great assignment. I find it so interesting that things that seem so small, like paying for someone’s groceries, can have such an impact on everyone involved.  The student doing the loving act has just as much to gain as the person that is on the receiving end.

Briana Claassen

I think that there were alot of good projects described here and a lot of love was shown.  These acts of service show that to show someone you care doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge or expensive undertaking.  You can impact a person’s life in a positive manner with little things.

Sheree Dessel

These stories are so uplifting and encouraging! It is amazing to see that something so little for us, could change a persons life, maybe forever. God is so good, and to be able to show is His love through something so simple as buying groceries is one of the greatest gifts. God’s love is the best gift anyone can receive. I am so excited to take this class and to be able to do an “extra mile love.” These stories are so encouraging. I sometimes think that the love we show to others not only changes the person lives, but ours as well. I am very excited to begin my assignment on the extra mile love.


I love the idea of searching for the little ways to show love to someone in our life, whether it be a stranger or someone we know.  It is easy to forget that there are many different ways we can show love to someone, and consequently it is easy to forget that we are capable of showing love to people we may not even know. The name of the project, “Extra Mile Love”, reminds us that it does take a little extra effort, and a little extra thought.  That is what requires us to go the extra mile.

Nate Thomas

The “Extra Mile Love Project”is an awesome way to encourage students to show love to people who they normally would not have shown love. This is especially important for us students because we focus so much on our education that often we forget about the other important things in life like loving others. It is a great challenge to take time out of our busy lives and focus on others, not ourselves.

Rachel Beers

This project seems great! I think it will be a time of growth for students in the class and will show us the various dimensions of love. I think it will stretch the students to get outside their comfort zone and really thin k about others, what you can do with this project is endless, there is such a need and this presents a great solution. I am very excited to start this project!

Xander Mahaffy

It’s amazing how such tiny acts of compassion can have such a major influence on the lives of other.  The world that we live in today expresses the idea of an individualistic society, where we have to work on our own two feet and consider our own concerns before the needs of others.  Yet still, it’s great to hear stories such as these that break this mold to help people who need compassion.  These projects are great examples of offering compassion and love to those who need it, and offer me a ton of inspiration for my own ideas for my Extra mile project.

Kaylee Wilkes

I loved reading all of these wonderful acts of love and how they can easily touch someones life and simply brighten their day! I remember one day I was in line at Walmart, stressed out, and late for a birthday party. I tried to pay for the gift that I was buying but my debit card wouldn’t work for some reason. As I was standing their panicking and about to cry the man behind me purched my inexpensive gift. I will never forget that day and how my attitude instantly changed. To be able to do that for someone else would be a blessing. I haven’t quite decided what I am going to do but this definitely got the wheels turning a bit more! Im excited for this project!

Nicole Bouchard

What I find most intriguing about this project is the variety of unexpected ways that students have found to demonstrate love. In particular, the cases in which students chose to remain anonymous prompt one to consider the role motivation plays in our actions. Often we act with ulterior motives, and though this may not be a bad thing, it is important to be aware and consider the implications. I look forward to finding a project that will challenge me to show love in a new way.

C Collins

I feel like this is a great way to become more aware of how our actions affect other people’s life. I believe that there are many things that I can do different throughout my day to make someone else’s better, this project reflects that. There are so many little things that can be taken for granted during our lives, but if we can reflect on another’s life and really see where they are coming from, it will help us to understand and appreciate those things taken for granted.

Zach Grunig

I really liked the originality of the many different ways that students were able to be loving to others. For myself when I think about showing love or helping someone else above that which I normally do I think about different ways to help them with money or material things. After reading about all the different ways previous students were able to be there for others I feel that the gift of relationship and personal contact is something that will leave a more lasting effect.

John Stump

Having the benefit of posting late to this blog I was able to view a perfect example of what this project means. The movie Pay If Forward in many ways relates to this project. But instead of “changing the world” we are urged to change the way we view the world. We are doing this in the extra mile love project, where we choose something that stretches us and our limits in what we consider as love. The examples given above are great at showing how both parties in this experience can benefit and feel the love from this project.

Myrandda Engelbrecht

I think that this project is a way for students to get out of their bubble, think of something creative to help others. I feel that this can make us more aware of who we are as a person, what our strengths are, and how we can love others as well as ourselves. This is a very important part of becoming who are, and I believe that it is all a part of our journey with the Lord.

Meghan Barker

It was interesting to read how diverse students projects where and how each had some value to the student and the person receiving the students time. I think the project involving paying for a mans food from off the street is a very loving thing to do. Not only did he buy food but he listened to what this man had to say about his life and misfortunes, which can do more than we know. Coming from a big city I am use to seeing homeless on street corners so it would have never occurred to me to actually listen and buy them things.

Torrey Lubiens

I like hearing how creative or how people are using their talents and abilities and how thats translated into a loving selfless act. When we think about going the extra mile it normally seems so hard but if we think about it we should be able to do it more naturally when we understand how we can provide love in our own way.

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