Monday, July 15, 2013

Godless, Not Heartless

They call the day before Boot Camp starts "Day Zero". It's before you start training, before the infamous "shark attack", before the ten weeks of nonstop screaming/yelling/push-ups/sit-ups/running, and before the lack of sleeping and eating commences. Day Zero is when you get issued uniforms, sign paperwork till your fingers hurt, get your head shaven (the guys at least) and other mundane calm-before-the-storm tasks.

As we were being herded from one station to the next, one of the NCOs guiding us along asked "so, why'd you guys join the army?". These guys see a new group of fresh-faced freaked-out recruits every day, and I'm sure they ask the same questions at the same spots every time, and no doubt they hear many of the same responses over and over again. I, however, was quite curious to hear what people had to say. From the moment I landed in St. Louis international airport on my way to Fort Leonard Wood MO, to the moment I drove the rented truck out of Fort Bragg NC nearly five years later, I was a cultural anthropologist. I may not have known the word or known of the profession, but from day one I felt like an alien who'd been afforded a rare chance to observe a radically foreign culture.

"I joined to serve my country, sergeant" said one guy, "I joined cuz my pops served, my brother served, and my grandpa served" said another, "the judge told me "go to war or go to jail", so I here I am", and so on down the line. Most of us had at least a few reasons that together made us join, but on top of most of our lists was "serve the country". And it was true. No matter how badly you want to get out of your boring hometown, or how much you want to impress your father, joining the US Army in 2007, at the height of the war in Iraq and with the war in Afghanistan nowhere near over, required a significant amount of patriotism and love of country. Not one of the practical or circumstantial reasons alone would've made any of us join the military, but add those to a deep belief in the cause - and we felt compelled to join. As the saying goes "you provide the why, and I'll provide the how."

I’ve decided to run a marathon for a number of reasons, I've gotten lazy since getting out of the army, I could stand to lose a few pounds, and I've always dreamt of running a marathon. A few family members are teaming up to run and train together (go Team Mandel!!), and sure, I'd love to visit Jerusalem - where I went to yeshiva, and fell in love Jewish history, sociology, and falafel. But none of those reasons alone would get me off the couch and out there pounding the pavement. Raising money for the wonderful organization Chai Lifeline is my number one motivation.

From their website:
"Since 1987, Chai Lifeline's mission has been to restore the light of childhood to children whose innocence ended when life-threatening or lifelong illness was diagnosed.
Through programs that address the emotional, social, and financial needs of seriously ill children, their families, and communities, Chai Lifeline restores normalcy to family life, and better enables families to withstand the crises and challenges of serious pediatric illness."

I've never shnorred - A.K.A. raised money - for anything before, and I don't feel comfortable asking, but I believe in this cause, and I intend to raise far more than the minimum. So whatever your motivation for helping out is - please do so generously. Whether it's supporting Chai Lifeline, supporting me in losing a few pounds, seeing me suffer through hundreds of miles of training, or even if you think this will cause me to do tshuva, stay in Israel and go back to yeshiva. If nothing else, you'll want to donate generously so I don't have to continuously spam you with shnorreratzia. Pay me by the mile, by the pound, you can even pay me to listen to Jewish music as I run. Oh who am I kidding? I’ll be doing that on my own. But you can pay me to listen to your favorite shiur as I run (for $5 a mile), as long as you give early and give often – I’m game. As a smart fellow once said "don't be a cheap Jew, and fork it over like it's maftir Yonah".

‘Team Mandel’ consists of my cousin and veteran Team Lifeline athlete Rabbi Zelig Mandel (“the Rabbi”), my sister Slavy Mandel Dorozhkin (“the Ruskie”) and her husband Ariel Dorozhkin (“the other Ruskie”). Once you have given as much as you possibly can to me, feel free to donate to them as well.

GODLESS, NOT HEARTLESS!

My personal page:
http://www.teamlifeline.org/israel/my/Arimandel4

To learn more about Chai Lifeline:
http://www.chailifeline.org/