This yeshiva I go to is one that especially attempts to reach out to Jews that aren’t really even sure what Judaism is. They take in all types of characters. The hippie that obviously did too many drugs. The ex-bouncer covered in tattoos (a no-no in Judaism). A former heroin addict who built his own house in Jamaica on someone’s farm. All these are true stories, people I know well. There are also many normal people, guys that had good jobs that just got fed up, or guys in college that want to learn a little more during the summer, and so on. But one story I was told last night was really interesting. Not as interesting as my buddy the ex-junkie, but still worth a blog post.
The head guy of the apartment they put me in is very religious. He wears black and white, a black hat, and you can just tell he is very serious. I also thought he was older, maybe 23 or 24. Our conversation:
“How old are you?”
“20. I’ve been here for a little more than a year”
“20… So you didn’t go to college, right?”
“Nope. I just didn’t think it was for me. I didn’t want to get pushed along. I felt that everyone going to college was going because they had to, they were being pushed to do it, to get a job, to do that whole thing.”
“So what’d you do?”
“When I graduated from high school I ran off to the circus and traveled the country with them for 6 months.”
“….,” trying to not be too gullible, “…really?”
“Yup. I joined P.T. Barnum. I took care of the animals, like horses and zebras, sometimes elephants.”
“Interesting. And did they pay a lot?”
“Relatively. You don’t spend much because you live on the train. P.T. Barnum has the biggest train in North America. It’s like a mile and a half long. You have your own room on the train, basically a cage. You have a bed and a mini-fridge, and that’s it.”
“So why’d you give it all up?”
“Um, I was LIVING ON A TRAIN.”
For all the kids out there: Graduate high-school, maybe give college a try. Joining the circus isn’t the route, even if it sounds cool.