We spent the last few weeks in the two largest Amish communities in the world - Holmes County, OH (#1) and Lancaster County, PA (#2). It was both sobering and refreshing to be among a culture so unlike the status quo of society.
It is unfair to summarize a group of people, but for the sake of brevity, I will simply say that the Amish are a group of Christians who generally dress in plain clothes, live without electricity, use horse & buggies for transportation, and only attend school through 8th grade.
Ultimately, Tim & I both agreed that the community seemed highly restrictive and authoritarian, strictly governed by church leaders, rigid with rules, controlling of women and children...yet also with many positives. It's important to remember that the Amish are not a group, but individuals - with faults, passions, and talents (just like the rest of us).
These are 6 things that we observed about the Amish way of life.
1. They dress simply. When they wake up in the morning, they don't have to contemplate choices or fashion trends. Since they dress "in uniform," there is no need to fret about clothing costs or brands.
2. They work hard. Have you ever noticed that physical labor can be rewarding? As farmers and carpenters, the Amish know a thing or two about using their hands to complete tasks - ending the day with visible progress on a project.
3. They have church at home - every other week. A group of 20-40 families "take turns" hosting. They meet every other Sunday - for studying, singing, and eating. I hear their services last 3+ hours.
4. They are multilingual. All Amish children learn two languages - Pennsylvania Dutch at home; English at school. It's expected. Not only is it good for the human brain to learn multiple languages, I also thought it was kind of fun that they had an almost "secret language" to use with their closest family members + friends.
5. They care for their neighbors. The Amish opt out of insurance, choosing instead to care for each other's medical and financial needs as they arise.
6. They live at a slower pace. Without cars and cell phones and computers, I sense that they notice the world around them in a different way.
I'll leave you with an interesting fact - According to recent surveys, the Amish population is actually increasing (not in decline, at all). This could be, in part, due to the fact that Amish families average 5-7 kids.
Did you grow up Amish or do you know anyone who did? Have you read any outstanding books (fiction or non-fiction) about the Amish?
NOTE: I wish I had all kinds of photos of the cute kids running around in suspenders and bonnets, but the Amish do not own cameras nor do they approve of photos being taken of themselves.
I live in South Jersey just 2 hours from Lancaster, PA, and I've been going there all my life. We even have Amish businesses in our community bringing us their tasty food. I've always been struck by their hard work and dedication. They seem so ambitious to me. I think there is something really great to be learned from their lifestyle.
I'm sure the thing that would be hardest for me (if I were to switch) would be the no pictures. Seriously. :)
Oh, me too! I think I would go absolutely crazy without my camera.
What a totally fascinating life you and your family are leading right now. You're making me want to jump into an RV and hit the road. Kinda. lol
I have recently been reading some Amish stories by Beverly Lewis, while she is not Amish she grew up in Lanchester, PA. One thing that I read that I was suprised about was that unlike most Christians the Amish do not pray for their salvation. They only hope that by following the Bible and being good people they will go to heaven.
Oops... one more link - I just stumbled across this site and bookmarked it myself: http://amishbooks.org/
I have met some Amish people that I really do admire. We stopped one day in Amish country when we were out hunting and let a family know that their cows were out, the father was working away from the farm that day so my husband helped the young boys round them up - it only took a few minutes of our time, but the mother was very appreciative and kind and spent a few minutes speaking to me.
As for Amish fiction I'll be the dissenting voice here - I've not cared for the novel's by Beverly Lewis and most of the other Amish fiction I read. Primarily because it always seems to be about a struggle between staying true to their culture and belief's or straying away because of some fascinating person of the opposite gender. Granted, I might ought to give the genre a try again because it's been at least 8 or 9 years since I gave it a try but.... :) so many books, so little time!
I do recommend these Amish books written for the Tween/Teen age group - my 14 year old niece loves Amish fiction and I pre-read any books I buy for her and have picked these up because they were on her wish list and have enjoyed them: The Mysteries of Middlefield series (http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=320596&item_code=WW&netp_id=862467&event=EBRN&view=details)
I'm not sure how much my niece enjoyed this book, because I forgot to ask her - but I did like the way the contrast between Amish life and our life was presented in the Katy Lambright series: http://www.christianbook.com/katy-lambright-series-volumes-1-2/pd/771199?item_code=WW&netp_id=683978&event=HPT&view=details (I've only read the 1st book)
And for the younger set - we've enjoyed these Wanda Brunstetter books http://www.christianbook.com/rachel-yoder-series-vols-1-8/wanda-brunstetter/pd/03363X?item_code=WW&netp_id=572414&event=HPT&view=details
Finally... :) I haven't read this Beverley Lewis series, but I have heard good things about it: http://www.christianbook.com/summerhill-secrets-in-1s-volumes-1/beverly-lewis/pd/9948?item_code=WW&netp_id=482744&event=HPT&view=details
OK... now I'll quit writing blog posts in the comments section of your blog :D Happy reading!
I know that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence but I envy the Amish for their simplicity. No fashion faux pas, no wondering what you will do when you grow up; they know what they believe and have clear cut roles in their lives. As you said you can't summarize a group a people with a few statements but from the outside it is easy to do just that.
I don't know any Amish but I'm absolutely fascinated by them. We took a trip to Pennsylvania Amish Country when I was 7 that I remember fondly.
Hello, I follow a neat blog by a woman named Maryanne who use to be Amish but isn't anymore. ajoyfulchaos.blogspot.com She writes about her current life, stories of growing up and is slowly telling the story of why they left the Amish. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for sharing that link, Margie. I just left a few comments on her blog.
I've always been fascinated by the Amish. I have a friend who grew up as an Englisher that was best friends with an Amish girl. She still has ties to them and knows a second language because of it. Kind of neat.
My favorite author has to be Beverly Lewis. I believe her mother was raised Amish, so her books are very true to the culture.
Question: How did the Amish feel about you, your family, your way of life?
It's hard to say. I'm sure they were amused and confused by our traveling ways. ;)
I've received several recommendations for Beverly Lewis' novels. I'd like to read a book or two of hers. In fact, I added one to my Amazon wish list just now (I'm still holding out for a Kindle).
I'm loving following your family's travels...but today I saw your fb post and hopped over instead of reading in my reader and so just wanted to stop by to say, It looks beautiful. The banner. Your new pic. The way everything is organized. I love it! Congrats. I can only imagine that took quite a while to make happen. Travel safe!
Thank you for your kind words, Jeanine! Tim is the tech genius behind my new site design. We make a great team. :)
I only live about 20 minutes from a very small Amish community and about 1 1/2 hours from Holmes county and I have visited there twice in the past two years. I love to just go up and drive around and enjoy the peaceful area. I love reading books regularly about the Amish. My favorite author is Wanda Brunstetter but there are also great ones like Cindy Woodsmall, Beverly Lewis, Amy Clipston, Shelley Shepard Gray and Patricia Davids.
We passed through Lancaster during our 2007 US road trip. I did take photos and film however it was while parked along side the road while NY was taking an important phone call. I felt terrible afterwards because I was unaware of the Amish feelings about photos.
We loved the simplicity and beauty of the community. It was a snowy Monday in late February and every single house had laundry hanging out. A Google search provided the Monday is laundry day info. ;D
My sister lives in a highly populated Amish area. They have a few bake shops, scratch n dent stores, and a bulk store that are popular among the local population. She did mention that several families were encouraged to move there as there was concern that a specific birth defect was increasing in other areas.
Interesting. I read in several articles that the Amish community has a heightened rate of birth disorders and defects due to the small gene pool.