Things I Have Learned from the Amish

Whenever we have contact with another culture, we should learn something from it. We have a frame of reference, a point for comparison with our own. From our exposure to another culture, we often better understand ourselves. Here then is my informal list of…

1. Sometimes you don’t need the things you "need."

When I lived with the Amish, I got along quite well without television, movies, electricity, etc. Farm work kept me busy and the family provided support, security, and satisfaction. In other words, I learned not to miss or want the things I knew I could not have, and to enjoy those that I did have.

2. Submitting doesn’t mean being inferior.

Being subordinate is important in Amish life…man is subordinate to God, women to men, children to parents, students to teachers, etc. But this "submissiveness" does not mean being inferior. A student, for example, shows respect and submission to his teacher. But sometimes the student eventually outshines the teacher in knowledge or capability. At home, if husband and wife disagree, then someone must "give in," otherwise discord follows.

3. Teamwork and humility have their place.

In American society, where individuality and competitiveness are so often stressed, it is sometimes difficult for people to work as a team. Even in sports, at times, individuals become more important than the group. Pride sometimes leads to boasting, selfishness, and even ruthlessness. Maybe that’s why we find Amish barn-raisings so fascinating. Perhaps the Amish attract our attention precisely because they don’t seem to want any.

4. To find satisfaction in the "routine."

Many people have repetitive jobs. Doing a job just for the money rarely brings happiness, but some people have no choice. Sometimes the world seems downright unfair…until we meet someone less fortunate. You can be negative and gloomy, or upbeat and positive. No matter what we do, we should do it the best that we can. Here is one of my favorite Amish quotes from David Luthy, "A person’s devotion to an idea is not measured until the newness has worn off, until the challenge has lost its initial excitement, and the fun and glamour have faded. Then, when only the hard work remains --- the daily tasks, the mundane labor --- that is when a person’s commitment to a project is truly tested."

5. To enjoy the simple things, quiet times, friends, family.

Certainly this is one of the most obvious things to say, yet true. Some of my fondest memories are of simply sitting and chatting with Amish friends. Recently I saw a commercial on TV that had an idea for promoting family unity --- plan to eat together once a week. ONCE a week! I guess for some American families once a week is an accomplishment.

6. That I don’t want to be Amish.

I have never wanted to be Amish. Partly, I admit, there are too many things of the world that I would not give up --- car, movies, music, art museums, travel, etc. Being Amish is much more than a lifestyle. The religion has a very distinct set of beliefs and practices, not all of which I could accept. But I respect and admire the Amish. They have enriched my life.


Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou


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