A "Barn-Raising" With No Barn

This past July, just down the road from my office, I noticed a sign placed along the side of the road in front of an Amish farm. It indicated a "Benefit Sale" would be held there in a few weeks. Several days before the event, a blue and white tent appeared by the road. Then the bench wagon arrived. These benches, normally for the Amish church services in the home, would be used for the many visitors who would be coming to the sale.

On Saturday the Amish arrived early in their buggies. Visitors, attracted by the tent and the Amish, arrived fairly early as well. A diesel engine was putt-putting away making homemade ice cream. Under the tent were tables where various items were offered. At one end were delicious homemade pretzels, baked right there. On the other side were the donuts. The smell of barbecue chicken filled the air. Ham and cheese sandwiches were piled high on one table. Items for sale ranged from quilts and knickknacks, to canned jams and farm fresh eggs.

Of course, a minor traffic jam developed as people drove by. Cars swerved off the road to park in the fields around the house. Curious visitors got out of their cars, and started to look at all the activity. Some bought baked goods, or chicken, or souvenirs, or ice cream, or all of the above. Few had probably expected to see so many Amish in one place. Even the buggies the Amish had arrived in soon received a great deal of attention from the out-of-state visitors.

Interestingly, few people had any idea what the sale was about. I asked one of the men who I knew, and he said the sale was to benefit two or three people, most particularly an Amish man with large medical bills. (The Amish shun worldly insurance and try to handle medical expenses within their community. When there is a serious problem, sales like this to raise money are not uncommon.) He said that the various families involved had come to him because he had an ideal location, along Route 340 between Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse. "So, you know, I ended up getting involved." He seemed to enjoy wandering about, talking to people, and making sure things were going smoothly. Somehow the Amish seem to find time to stand and chat, yet still get all their work done...or so it seems to me.

While the barn-raising is certainly the most "spectacular" expression of the Amish community's coming together to help in time of need, I reflected a little on this benefit sale. Here were various families, from grandparents to grandchildren, who had all come together to benefit some people in need. As is the case with these kinds of activities, whether Amish or not, there is a great deal of work, but also a lot of joy in the day's activities.

And the Amish had been savvy enough to look for a farm with the right location, as well as pick a good day for the event---Saturday of July 4th weekend. People from many different backgrounds and places had mingled together and supported a good cause, but most of them probably didn't even know what that "cause" was. Each visitor had briefly been a part of an Amish "barn-raising" without the barn!

Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou


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