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.