"Why would anyone want to be Amish?"

That’s what a visitor once asked me. "Besides staying with your family, what is the bonus?" I tried to explain to the visitor, from my perspective, that there were many "bonuses." But I’m not sure how successful I was.

Several weeks later I went with an Amish friend to visit another Amish family we know. Our friend, who I will call Elam Esh, was just finishing up milking the cows. As we walked toward the house, we noticed some faces peering out the window into the night, trying to see who the unexpected guests might be.

A warm fire was burning in the heat stove as we entered the house. We found seats at one end of the kitchen and began to "visit." The word "visiting" for the Amish simply means to sit and talk. No one knows where conversations will begin, or lead, or end. A good place to start might be the weather, crops, the family.

As we talked, Elam’s wife Rachel cam over with their newest baby and gave it to Elam to hold. It looked over at me and smiled that kind of grin that only little babies can give. Elam rocked back and forth in his chair with the baby on his chest. Rachel sat across from us and listened to the conversation.

Meanwhile, at the kitchen table one brother and sister spread out a board game to play. Beside me, the two-year-old sister dumped open a game of Monopoly and started to play with the money, just colored pieces of paper to her. Elam discovered that the baby needed changed and it is handed back to the women.

Next, a door opened behind me and in walked grandma form the little section of the house where she lives. She probably heard some strange voices and decided to see who was there. She sat down with the other women across from us men. The two-year-old picked up some of the Monopoly money and tottered over to hand it to grandma, who kindly accepted it. Raised voices came from the kitchen table, where there was an apparent dispute over some action in the game there.

Our conversation ranged from milk prices, to stories about the many visitors who come tot he farm, to the new Amish cemetery being prepared, to the comet up in the sky, which I had yet to see.

I looked at my watch and, remembering that Elam had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to milk the cows, announced that we should be going. Elam grabbed a flashlight to guide us down the walk to my car. As I stepped outside, I looked up into the sky and there, just above the tobacco shed, was the comet! "You know," I said, "sometimes people ask me why anyone would want to be Amish. If they had just spent the last two hours with us, they might understand." I felt a little lump in my throat, and realized that my friend probably wondered what was so special about the visit. It was just a perfectly normal activity for him. It was part of being Amish—part of a family, a community, a way of life. We bid each other goodnight and returned to our separate worlds.

"Why would anyone want to be Amish?" I had my answer.

 

Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou

 

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