Running, in many ways is a sport for individuals, with its whole "loneliness of the long distance runner" thing. Still, despite that fact, there are ways to be part of a team. Cross country running, a popular sport in many schools (although sadly not in the Jewish school system, where I teach) is one such example. Long distance relay events made up of teams of 10 or more are growing in popularity. Finally, charity teams raise literally tens of millions of dollars each year for various causes. I have been thinking about the popularity of teams recently, as I head into what is likely to be my last weekend with Team Lifeline for a while, if not for good.
To begin, there is of course a big difference between rooting for a team, as opposed to being on a team. While the former involves getting vicarious pleasure, or equally often pain through the efforts of others, the latter is a personal experience. Even as I run past a runner who I do not know this Sunday, the fact that he or she is wearing the same shirt will cause me to shout out words of encouragement, at least if I am not in a world of pain.
It seems to me that teams fill the role that communities once filled. It was once common to know ones neighbors, and perhaps to sit outside on one ones stoop on a hot summer's day, shooting the breeze, while hoping for one. At least that's the way it is told to us. Be that as it may, those of us who live in urban settings often live in the worst kind of isolation, surrounded by people, yet all alone.
Religion at its best, helps create a sense of community. One of the great things about observing Shabbos (the Sabbath) in the traditional Jewish sense, is that it creates community as all synagogue goers must live within walking distance of their house of worship. Still, I must admit that the Jewish community is often way too fractured, with each slight difference in approach needing its own schools and shuls.
Into this void of loneliness and kinship steps the idea of teams, with their secular, or at least not inherently holy rules and friendship. Team Lifeline has been a family of sorts these last four years. A family I joined on a whim, not knowing how I would fit in. Since then, I have made many friends, recruited new members and had much more fun and enjoyment than I can possibly list. Like the end of Cheers or MASH, Sunday will likely have a huge amount of poignancy for me. It has been over four years since I made the decision to sign up. Four years later, my life is much richer for having done so.
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