Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Amish Peace

On a couple of trips to the east coast, we’ve visited Lancaster, PA. I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish and love driving around the Pennsylvania countryside. Their properties are pristine, with laundry drying in the breeze and cattle grazing in the fields. I’ve enjoyed the antique stores, the furniture stores, and the living history attractions. There’s something fascinating about these people who live in the present as if it were the past. I’m amazed by their creativity in solving problems and wondered at what they consider “OK” and what’s off limits. And why.

I confess that there are many times when I’m multitasking like a one-armed paper-hanger-- caring for Mom, running my business, managing my home, and going to school-- that I long for a simpler way of life. Maybe I should become Amish?

Well, that’s probably not going to happen. I’m too addicted to my computer and the Internet. But I’ve enjoyed reading a new book by Suzanne Woods Fisher and for a few hours, immersing myself in the ways of the Amish. The book is called Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World.

In two to three page chapters, Suzanne tells stories and looks at the beliefs of the Amish, explaining why they do what they do. The thing that surprised me was that their beliefs aren’t just old fashioned or legalistic. Each decision is based in firmly-held beliefs. The elders have carefully thought through each decision--often based on family. For example, she says they don’t heat any room other than the kitchen/great room. Not because they’re cheap or can’t afford it, but because that motivates the family to spend the evening together – kids working on homework, Mom sewing, Dad reading. They are all together. They don’t eschew cars because they’re primitive, but because they want to limit the distance people can go from home and family. Telephones are not forbidden, but they're housed in a telephone booth outside to discourage long conversations. They prefer visiting face-to-face, and dropping in is encouraged.

The Amish care for their elderly and disabled in their homes, and there seems to be no chaffing at the responsibility. It is simply what is expected. They exhibit a stoicism that is refreshing in a world of whiners.

Each chapter ends with several questions asking how we can apply these principles to our own lives. Not that we should become Amish, but rather that we should make deliberate choices about our lifestyles rather than allowing the culture to define us. Take some time and read this book.

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