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Amish for Life: PART II

In last week’s Blog I gave the top 10 reasons why you may not be cut out for the Amish life. I must admit here, I hold my breath after each blog I post, until the first few responders give their feedback. I often seem to walk on a fine line of where to not go with a subject. In other words, although I have been out for almost 11 years, I am not quite always in touch with what is politically correct.
Take for example, the first response I received after my last blog, by a woman who had a husband that was held in the war for many years, even after he wished to retire. This woman was upset, and rightfully so, about the fact that I made a comparison to the Amish life being tougher then going through boot camps. In my exact words, “if you think the military, boot camp, the grueling workouts in the rain, etc, as tough as that might be, you can still take comfort that you can always throw in the towel and drop out at any moment”.
If you read the Part I, and thought I was rather hard on the Amish life in some areas, I probably was. However, take note that I only did it to DE-romanticize, or educate some of the many people who wish to join. I can also assure you that I left areas out that I could have talked about at length, and probably will sometime in the future. Areas that need to be addressed. Now is not the time and place.
I personally felt unsettled all week knowing I left a story half told, and knowing that without fairly telling the top 10 good reasons why you just might make it among the Amish, I was doing the entire Amish community a huge disfavor.
Indeed, when I keep hinting around the edges about feeling a little guilty about walking that fine line between educational and critical, the people whose feelings I am really worried about are the Amish themselves.
Anyone who knows the Amish at all, knows they wish to remain invisible. Out of the spotlight. No cameras, no publicity, no exposure, and no educating the outside world.
But is it not a little late for me to start worrying about opening up to the world, telling my stories and experiences of my time as an Amish person? After doing “Amish in the City” 2004, two stand alone documentaries in 2010, “Amish out of the order”, “Amish at the Altar”, and finally the most recent show that most of you know me from, “Amish: Out of Order”, is it not apparent that I have defined myself as one of the few Ex Amish who is comfortable with being completely open to the world about myself, my personal life, and the life where I came from?
But Part II of this Blog isn’t about negativity. In this part I wish to focus on the positive things about being Amish. The reasons that kept me there until I was 22 years old. Kept me there long after I knew I was unhappy and longed for a life in the outside world.
I wish to state here, for the new reader, that I do not by any means, claim to be a professional writer. I am simply put, a man with only an 8th grade education who is musing out loud. I have not read many blogs by others, so I have no idea if I am on track or not. If you are reading through this Blog and with your professional trained eyes, with 4 Masters degrees in English and Grammar, and you find places where I misspelled words, ended paragraphs in the wrong place, or was scatter brained, I am guilty as charged. I even realize that I often get completely off topic and go off randomly on a thought that popped into my head. I may even have contradicted myself from PART I to PART II of this Blog several times. Typically, I write an entire blog in 3 or 4 hours, go over it once, and post it. At some point, I wish to further my education. Become a writer who can write his thoughts and experiences into the form of books. That has been a lifelong dream of mine.
So without further ado, let’s get to the heart of Amishhood. to the ties that bond. the ties that keep them surviving and prospering in and among the world, even as the world becomes more and more advanced, and the Amish somehow still manage to exist right among our midst.
Here are the top 10 reasons why you just might be able to survive as an “Amish for Life”.

1. FOOD: Oh but the home cooked food. Although I am not by any means a picky eater, my mouth waters for a good home cooked meal. Vegetables that were grown in a garden without any chemicals, steroids, or fertilizer to make them grow. Home made mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, strawberries fresh from the garden, milk straight from the udder of a cow, eggs that although not officially branded organic, might as well be since they came from a farm where the chickens ate only farm grown food.
Oh but the food the women would cook up at Weddings, Holidays, or Barn Raisings. I have never met a person with as big of an appetite as a working farmer who has eaten dust and dirt all day in the fields. I marvel at my mother who somehow managed to keep enough canned food in the basement over the winter, and plant just enough every spring to feed a growing family of 15.
Although we had to fast until noon on Holidays, by 12:00, all the married siblings, Nieces And Nephews, Aunts and Uncles, and Cousins would be there and food would be served. There are not many things that seem to bond a family together stronger than everyone gathering around before a meal while you bow your heads in silent prayer, giving thanks for this meal, and all joining together around the tables in devouring the well prepared food the Lord has Blessed you with. When I say there are not many things that bond a family more than eating together….. There is one I can think of, which leads me right into number 2.

2. SINGING: I came from a family of Gingeriches who had really good singing voices. Some of my fondest memories as a child were of the entire family out in the dairy barn milking the cows by hand. Not one sound in the barn except the cows munching down on the fresh hay. there was no sound of electricity, Milking machines, a Radio, Fans, or Tractors. Even with a herd of usually around 45 to 50 cows, 30 horses, 30 calves, cats, dogs, pigs, and the occasional goat, after the animals were all fed and content and the family was milking the cows, it was usually so quiet that you could talk in normal tones to a brother or sister milking a cow at the other end of the barn 80 feet away.
Than someone would start off singing a song. The entire family would join in, and the walls of the barn seemed to echo the joyful voices of many mouths singing a German song by the light of an oil burning lantern. Oh but if I could just go back in time to those precious childhood days! Back when life was so innocent and young and there were no problems. What I wouldn’t give to even have some recordings of a few songs from those years and listen to them just for old times sake!
Later on in years as I got older, we sang in the schools, and finally, when I turned 17 and started going to the Singens, all the teenagers between 17 and married age, would gather every Sunday night and sing songs together in the “Singens”. Possibly that is where I first started valuing music and the positive impact it can have on one’s life. To this day I sometimes drive out to an Amish community on a warm Sunday night when they have the windows open to the house, and I’ll sit half a mile away or so, and listen to several hundred voices singing together in unison.

3: CLOSE KNIT: Most Amish families have a tie that is almost impossible to break. A bond that is so strong that you will do whatever it takes to keep from breaking it. When you have spent you entire life working side by side in the fields, sawmills, woods, and even in the house with you brothers and sisters. When you sing together, pray together, cry together, share your bed with your bothers in the freezing cold upstairs of a Wisconsin farmhouse, and you lay with your backs against each other to make some body heat. When you comfort each other after a spanking, walk the 3 miles to and from school together, and ride in the buggies together to and from church every Sunday, you develop a bond that is tough to break.
Now looking back, I cherish those memories of my time spent while I was there. I wish I could go back and relive some of them. I spent a lot of my childhood impatiently awaiting the time when I would be old enough to leave the Amish. Now I wish I had spent more time cherishing my time with my brothers and sisters while I was there and had the chance.

4: A HELPING HAND:  One of the hardest things I had to get used to after I left the Amish community was how alone you are out in the world. I discovered early on that if I buy a car, insurance, an apartment, and whatever I choose to spend money on, if I fall upon hard times, or in my case, winter arrives, and construction work came to a halt, I am on my own. Even if I had a few friends who would have liked to help me out with a bill here or there, they were broke as well, because all of them did construction work and lived from paycheck to paycheck same as I did.
Two weeks after leaving the Amish, I had a bad car accident. Had I not been wearing a seat belt, It would almost surely have cost me my life. With no drivers license, auto insurance, health insurance, or money saved up, you can bet that I started off on the wrong foot immediately. With no car, a $30,000. hospital bill, and laid up in bed with broken bones for 6 weeks, I discovered really quick how important it is to have friends who will help you out.
I will say that I had some friends and relatives who were ex Amish, who came to visit, an ex Amish Uncle who allowed me to live with him and his family, and the new girlfriend who I had started dating. (She is now my wife)
So when I say that I was completely alone, that is not entirely true. I had support, and a hand full of friends. One of my ex Amish friends gave me $600. Besides that, I was on my own on from the financial aspect of it.
I am not complaining. I am simply making a comparison to the Amish life where I had just come from several weeks ago. A life where if someone had a huge doctor bill and didn’t have the financial means of paying for it, the church pitched in and helped out. If that Amish community didn’t have the money to help pay it off, word would be sent to the neighboring communities until the right amount was reached.
It was the same way when someone’s house or barn burned down. Everyone would drop what they were doing. The men would cut down logs and cut them into lumber to donate. The women would bring food. The entire community would come together and donate time, food, or money to help out and rebuild. The Amish don’t carry any kind of insurance, but this was as good or better than any kind of insurance provided in the outside world.
When you live at home on your parents’ property, you are expected to work until you turn 21 for no income, in return for room and board. All of my years growing up, I lived at home for free. I ate the food off the table for free, and after I turned 21, and was allowed to work outside our home for money, I was still allowed to live at home for free. This was not even questioned. The concept that you would charge someone to live with you in your house or to eat your food would have sounded silly where I came from.
After I left, it took me a while to grasp that no one owes me anything. If I go to Home Depot to buy some tools, and I don’t have the money to buy them, it is not OK to call someone and ask them to loan me the money until I can pay it back.

5: SIMPLICITY: As it gets closer to the end of the month, I included, like many people I know, begin to worry about the extra  expense of Christmas, and start questioning whether we will have enough money to pay all the bills. For some reason it doesn’t seem to matter where one works or how much money one makes, whether it be in teaching school, construction, training horses, or finally in Automotive sales where I am now, The amount of money you make is almost always just enough to just pay the bills for that month. Murphy’s Law is, if I have a month that is a little better, something comes up. Transmission goes out in the car, a garage door quits working, or any combination of things happen to insure that your account will be low again. This is the America we live in, and I am certain that many of you can nod your heads in agreement with my philosophy.
I know I am sounding repetitive, but where I come from, there are almost no bills. Money or bills are rarely spoken about. The focus in an Amish home is not necessarily on the Almighty dollar. Usually at the end of each month, there is the usual mortgage bill on the farm. That is all. There is no phone, electricity, internet, insurance, water, gas, credit card, or any other bills. Just one payment. The payment on the farm.
In the outside world, there is the constant concern of worrying about speaking politically correct, staying up to date on what’s in style to wear, what the latest rules are that are being passed, and do I need to go in and place my vote against or for it?
In the Amish community, they have none of those concerns. The Amish are not in the least concerned with who is the local Mayor, Senator, or even the President. They don’t care that there is a war being fought on Terror. That there is a concern about going Green because of pollution. That there are people who are preparing for the end of the world because of some man-made predicament. That Mark Sanchez got benched and the Jets are in disarray. That the world hangs in the balance on whether or not Dallas keeps or fires its head coach. (An attempt at lightening the mood alittle here)
Varily I say, if it hasn’t been made apparent to you yet, the Amish have their own set of rules. A set of rules that occasionally clash a little with the rules of the world, but for the most part, allow them to fly under the radar.

6: SAFETY: How would you like to live in an environment where no one locked their houses, you could trust your kids to play in the yard for hours while you worked in the fields or gardens, without fear of them venturing out into the street or fear of them being kidnapped?
How nice would it be if you had children who never heard the “birds and Bees” talk in school until you, as the parent, wanted them to hear it? Where the kids didn’t know that babies didn’t come down from Heaven on a cloud and into the bedroom with mom, until they are out of the eighth grade.
Where you didn’t have to worry about what company your kids are hanging out with after school, whether or not they may be out mudding with their vehicles, drinking, smoking various smokable objects. Why don’t you have to worry?  You guessed it, they are at home by your side working.
I do not wish to muddy the waters of an otherwise pleasant conversation here, but there has never to my knowledge been problems with Amish stealing from each other, violence in schools, or reasons to worry about not trusting your fellow neighbor.
Obviously after I left, I became aware of the Nickel Mines School shooting in PA, and recently the Amish beard cuttings in Ohio. Maybe they are becoming less peaceful in recent years. I remember them as peace-loving, out of the spotlight sort of people.

7: DIVORCE: I am repeating myself from PART I of this blog, but the truth of the matter is, once you marry your significant other, there is little to no fear of any cheating going on, or your spouse giving up on you and asking for a divorce. Could it be that if both sides of a relationship know that separation is not an option under any circumstances, they may just work a little harder on trying to salvage a relationship? Who knows. I certainly know of a few Amish couples that would have been happier apart or even with different people. Bottom line is, when you say your vows, for better or worse, til death do us part, that is literally exactly what you are promising, for better or worse, and with no GET OUT FREE card. This can work both ways. If you find out too late that you aren’t happy together, too bad, suck it up. If, on the other hand, you and your spouse are madly in love, good news, you are going to enjoy each others company for the rest of your lives, come hail or high piles of corn…….

8: RELIGION: Although I am just a simple man, I have made an amazing discovery in life. Every person needs something to believe in.  Something that seems to complete that person. For many people this something is religion. If you dig into almost any religion, and trust me, I have found that there are many in the World, you will find a common trend. Each and every church or religion believes they possess something that none of the others have. A little extra secret something that sets them apart from the rest. Possibly even something that may please God more than the others. There are even those that would go as far as to believe that their church or religious beliefs are the right one and the only one. The one that God wants all people to believe in. For the most part, those people actually spend a lot of time trying to convert other people, religious or not, into their belief system. This is what they feel God wants them to do. I am not casting judgement here, it probably is what God wants.
I personally am a firm believer in God. I think the world is a much better place with religion in it than without. Is it for everybody? It is not for me to say. At this point in my life, I do not feel pressured or called to be the one to go around trying to convert people. To each his own.
Imagine a world where nobody has a religious God or something to believe in. It is a sad concept, and one I hope never happens in my time here on earth.
What I started out to say is that everyone needs to believe in something. The Amish are no different. I could not imagine life among the Amish without church and religion. It is what keeps the community close. Every Sunday you were expected to attend the three or four-hour church services. If you missed it, you better had a really good excuse.
I suppose the Amish belief is a mixture of Religion, Tradition, and Superstition. What I mean by that, is that they believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, mixed in with a lot of man-made rules and tradition, and on top of that, mix that with being fiercely Superstitious about everything out of the normal that happens.
If someone dies, gets hurt, barn burns down, has a horse and buggy accident, or various other misfortunes, it was a sign from God that person was living wrong, or that God needed another angel in Heaven. The list of Superstitions that the Amish believe, are too long to list, but I remember hearing about how an Amish person, and had led a pretty decent life, died and was buried. This person had, however, done a few misdeeds that God wouldn’t have been proud of. Rumor has it that someone went past the graveyard late at night and saw this person burning above the ground. The person was in serious agony. The way the story was impressed upon me as a young child was that the person had led a good life, but had done just a few too many misdeeds that God couldn’t allow him into Heaven right away. First, before the person was allowed in, God forced him to be tortured for a time here on earth before he was allowed to enter.
Whether or not I believe this is probably not relevant here, the subject at hand is that the Amish, like many other Religions, have something to stand for, something to believe in. Agree with it or not, they are a better people because of it. I became a better person during my time as an Amish person because of the beliefs I was raised with, then if I had been raised without them.
Like it or not, respect the Amish or not, they are onto something, and that innocent, pure, belief system is one of the many things I wish I could raise my children with.
And that, my fellow readers, is why it is important for me to, while I try to educate people in the outside world to better help them understand the Amish way of life and why they believe in things the way they do, while still trying to preserve their reputation. After all, they believe with all their heart in what they do. This is the life they choose to live. Only a very small percentage of us chose to leave for various different reasons. Is it then fair to exploit  the Amish way of life. To create fictitious shows and create scripted Drama about Amish when indeed they are a peace-loving people who only wish to be left alone?

9: HONESTY: Yes, I work at a car dealership. I have been there for 2 1/2 years. I have probably heard it all in my short time there. Yes, I am also aware of the reputation a car salesman has. Rumor has it we all lie. We are all out to screw everyone that walks on the lot. We are like vultures, seeking out our prey, choosing which one makes the easiest target. trust me, I am reminded of it every day. Every time that I go out on the lot and try to talk to a new person who is passing through, and I am treated with disrespect. Each and every time it seems that they have had a bad experience at another dealership, and I am the person who will receive the brunt of their fury. Most of the time, it is my job to prove that I am not that last salesman who tried to screw them. I have to prove that I can be trusted. In short, I have to prove myself.
Sounds simple, but try doing it 4 or 5 times a day, week in and week out. After a while your patience starts running thin. After a while you just want to walk up and ask a new customer if they are a buyer, and if they say “no”, turn and walk away. If you are in sales, I strongly suggest not trying that last technique, BTW. It could end your short stint at your place of employment.
However, I want to mention that it is not nearly always the salesperson who is the liar or the bad guy. I have heard every excuse in the book, and many that aren’t in it, why the customer is not ready to commit to a sale today. At first when I was selling cars, I was easily convinced. “OK, so you need to go home and pray about it for a week””? “I get it. Come back and see me after you have sorted it all out”. “Oh wait a minute, you left my dealership and went right down the street and bought from the next dealership the same day, without going home and praying about it”.
To this day, I am probably the least pressure sales person that I know. However, I have discovered something amazing. 100% of the customers who walk into the dealership are interested in buying a car. If not today, sometime in the near future. Trust me, with the reputation a dealership has, it is not exactly a friendly place like the mall where people go to hang out to pass the time. Rumor has it that most customers would rather go have a tooth pulled then go in and buy a car. So If I can’t do my job correctly, then I won’t be the person they buy from. However, if I listen carefully, help them find the vehicle that gives us the best chance at putting a deal together, listen to their needs on budget, etc, my chances of getting the sale, rocket up. And it is all possible without the dreaded word customers fear so much, PRESSURE.
I have also seen a customer say whatever it takes to try to get the most out of a trade-in.
I suppose if there is a negative to selling cars, it is that I have discovered not everyone can be trusted. A hand shake and a verbal commitment doesn’t always mean anything. What a surprise!
I suppose I have become somewhat more calloused. I have learned to take criticism with a grain of salt. As my manager would say, I have toughened up a little.
Take a step back in time where a man’s word was solid as a rock. Where a hand shake meant the world depended on you keeping your promise. Where if you borrowed money, there was a 100% chance that you would pay it back as soon as the financial situation got better. Where if you were told something by your Amish neighbor, you never even questioned or doubted that he was telling the truth, nothing but the truth, and the whole truth.

10: WORK ETHIC: I am by no means attempting to belittle the hard-working American laborer. Rather, in this section, I wish to speak about the physical labor of the Amish Farmer. Same as in the outside world, for many generations the value of hard work has been handed down from generation to generation. Growing up, I sometimes felt like my dad’s theory was that the harder one works, the greater the chance of entering the Kingdom of God. I won’t bore the reader with long details about how me and my siblings worked from sunup to sundown, day in and day out.
What I will say is that my dad was probably the hardest working man I have ever met in my life. He expected and demanded that each of his 8 sons become exactly as hard of a worker if not even more so then he was. As far as I know, I was the only son who resented hard work. I suppose I didn’t so much resent it, as I just craved my playtime as well. I remember how the long hours just absolutely crawled by in the sawmills. I would watch our Amish neighbors hook a gas motor to their little red wagon and go flying past our sawmill with their hair flying back in the wind, and I craved for adventure. It didn’t seem fair that there was no play for the Gingerich boys.
I don’t know if it was genetic, or extra hard work, but the Gingerich boys became known far and wide as the best wrestlers and arm wrestlers around. Every time we went to another Amish community for a wedding or to visit, we were matched up with their best wrestlers and we had to prove ourselves. There was usually one or two in every community that seemed to give me a run for my money.
At age 17, I began my 5 year stint as an Amish school teacher. I had discovered that I am much happier and feel a lot more fulfilled in front of a room full of children eager to learn. I loved to teach. I loved learning more and more about the world each year. It was there, after school, when all the children had gone home, that I would get books from the library, and their stories of the outside world would fill the empty voids of my adventurous heart.
By teaching school, I had found a way of getting out of the hard work on the farm. Although a male school teacher is rare among the Amish, I didn’t care. To me, it felt like I was doing a lot more with my role in life then I had been in the back forty plowing the exact same field year after year.
However, somehow my dad must have gotten through to me. Now, several decades later, I am the exact man my father was. I go from dawn to dusk and often late enough into the night that my family life almost suffers at times. In the end, my dad, who passed away, bless his soul, when I was 12 years old, probably had the last laugh. His strict methods of getting the most work out of me at a young age, came back to me many years later, and alas, I am no longer a shirker of hard work.
I suppose as a side note, By teaching a young child this sort of hard work at such a young age, you are also teaching it responsibility. There is a misconception among some people in the outside world that a kid with just an 8th grade education, seriously needs to further their education in order to get far in life. From my experience, most of the Amish people I know are actually sharp as a tack with math, Grammar, and the things that are important in making their lives go around. I suppose that quite  possibly they can absorb a little more in 8 years because that is all they do in school. There are no distractions. When you get home, there are no Xbox’s to play on. No TV or radio to clutter your brain and maybe lose some of the things you learned that day.
Now looking back, although I resented the hard manual labor, I have no regrets. I am the man I am today because of all the hard work and values I was so strictly brought up with. That being said, I still despise field work, the hay leafs sliding down inside the back of my shirt with the sweat combination creating an itch which could often not be reached. I still don’t miss the husking corn by hand in 2 feet of snow in 0 degree weather so our cattle had food for another evening. I still don’t miss being the one chosen to fork the straw out evenly in the haymow when thrashing time came around. You could depend on the blower from the thrashing machine creating enough dust from the force it took to blow the straw up into the haymow, to leave you with clogged lungs, a nose that doesn’t function, and eyes filled with dust and straw.
I still don’t miss twice a day, loading all the manure out of the gutters onto a manure spreader, taking it out into a wide open field, with freezing 30 below Zero Wisconsin winds making you gasp for your breath while you unloaded the cow and horse manure out in the fields on top of the snow where it would stay all winter until the spring thaw, when it would settle down onto the field and serve as fertilizer for the crops.
What I do miss are the long walks back to the back Forty to bring up the cows for their evening milking. Training a new horse that a neighbor brought over for us to train to ride. I miss the conversations me and my brothers had in the evening in bed as we dozed off to sleep. I miss the “Singens”.
It is the times when I had time to be dreamy, that I miss. The times when I had time to reflect on life, time to think about the possibilities of another life. A life on the outside. A life where I could go try my hand at being, “English for life”

In the end, the question was, could you become, “Amish for Life”. Based on my Two Part blog, with my limited information about the Amish US wide, does it help make your decision any easier one way or the other on whether you could become, “Amish for Life”?

I

12 Comments

  1. As far as working hard from a young age, I can relate. I never grew up Amish and have spent my entire life living in the English world, however when my mom married my stepfather when I was 5, he began to teach me the importance of hard work by assigning me chores around the house. As, I got older, the chores became more intensive and began to involve helping rebuild an entire fence, putting up a tool shed, mowing yards, shoveling snow, scooping dog poop, cleaning the entire house, helping to cook and clean up afterwards. You name a chore in the modern world and I probably have done it. Mind you I am a female, so even among my friends, the work I was doing for my home was a bit unheard of. I still believe I worked hard for everything this far in my life, without ever being employed (except for babysitting in which one of the kids had Downs Syndrome, which really taught me how patient I can be).

    That being said, I don’t regret learning those things in my life because I know how to fix things most people my age don’t even have a clue about(my Stepfather even had me learn every part in a car engine before I was truly allowed to drive on my own). He is recently out of the picture of my mom’s life but, even though I admittedly resented him for making me get up at the crack of dawn to get a day’s worth of chores done in the hot, summer sun, I now look back and realize how strong and tolerant it made me.

    I could never be Amish because even though I admire them for not being materialistic and living without the luxury of modern advances, I am too accustomed to the life I know to make such a drastic, permanent change. Another issue is that I could never truly be Amish because I grew up half of my life being strictly Agnostic, or in other words, not knowing what to believe in but, also not denying that any religion could be right. I still struggle with it and thank goodness for my Grandma(who was Catholic and sadly passed away this year) for being so understanding of my search to find God in the way that makes sense to me. I do have a lot of Hindu values which is why I now-a-days consider myself to be an Agnostic-Hindu and my Grandma was seriously the best for being able to remain open-minded and accept my comfort in certain Hindu beliefs. (Although she baptized me when I was a baby.) I have attended several different churches in my life and have always been accepting and understanding of all religions because as you seem to agreee, we all have one common goal and that is reaching the Lord.

    My main point is an Amish life is an honest one and in order to live it, you must be a Christian and I can’t lie to myself just because some of their ways of life make sense to me and as much as I respect and admire them for being able to live such hard non-modern lives, it certainly is not the place I belong in this world. Co-existing will always be apart of me so if people continue to want to live Amish lives, I will respect their decision and if they choose to leave, as you did I understand why.

    One more thing I would like to say before I wrap this all up is that I did not have a very good understanding of other religions until I took Humanities at my college and my wonderful teacher taught us a very non-hateful,honest view on all religions and their branches. She included Amish and Mennonite life in her lectures and did shed light on the common misconceptions people have. I honestly never knew you were even allowed to leave. I thought the Amish were born and forced to stay Amish. I truly thank her for being able to shed light on the subject without making it sound too awful or too great.

    Thanks for the wonderful blog posts and for reading this terribly long message.
    Sincerely,
    Janae Lazar

  2. Mose I think you do a great job at expressing your thoughts. As I read this I can see and hear the joy and peace you had concerning the important parts of life, the simple things that bind family and community. Those are precious memories. And so very sad that no matter what you chose in or out of the community that you can not continue that bond. It truly makes me sad.
    I also believe the traditions of men and superstitions can often back fire with many people who are what I call “Thinkers”. And it saddens me because although I am not and never have been Amish, I have grown up in a very strict religious environment that as I began to “Think” made no sense to me except for the fact of “control”. And I could not live in that much “control” when much of it made no sense.
    I do not presume to know your feelings on this…but for me I had to get away as well and find a more conducive environment I could “think through” the why’s and find a way of reason. Not just blindly follow.
    I believe God makes each of us unique …with a specific purpose in His will. And even though Farming may not have been your God given purpose, you still learned much from it and probably have some fond memories as you have expressed. And lessons learned that will stay with you a lifetime.
    I enjoy reading your thoughts. Both pro and con concerning Amish Life. It is what has formed you in childhood. Things that are useful in this new english life. And in your character, integrity, honor be a shining example to the world. NOT perfect…that is not what I am saying. But someone with a solid foundation others can learn from.And even through this sharing you are “teaching”…the thing you enjoyed.
    God Bless you and your family. Look forward to new blogs.
    Leana

  3. Kellie from Indiana

    I have read many a blog and not many are as well spoken and thought out as yours. Ex-Amish, Amish, or English, I really believe most people yearn to just live their lives and be able to provide for their families without having to learn how to deal with this thing America has become -the machine. It will run whether you want it to or not, and run many a people over. We like to think we have a say but we don’t. So we live the best way that we can. Try to live without the beliefs most Amish are raised in. Some, like me, who have gone across the country and back with barely a dollar, and have struggled through horrible situations yearn for a simpler life. I really think that is why the Amish are so publicized right now. People want change. In some cases change means going back to basics. I appreciate your blog, and thank you for your time in posting.

  4. Mose I love reading your blog and appreciate the honest and respectfully written facts you share. My parents both left the Amish with only an 8th grade education and did ok raising a family of 5 children. We struggled like everyone else, but my dad worked long hours as an OTR truck driver. We belonged to a Mennonite church and still followed a lot of the Amish ways, so I can relate to much of what you describe. We’ve come a long way and are able to associate with relatives without shunning. Being out of the Amish family loop is a real lonely road, but I’m glad my parents made the decision to leave and that it all turned out the way it did. I am a high school graduate, two years of college, inherited some great cooking skills, gained a home taught second language (PA dutch) that I speak fluently. I want to add that my parents were strict and we got spankings, whippings, beatings or whatever you want to call it. Some would call it abuse, but it worked for us little heathens. Sorry if this sounds creepy, but all Amish are family even if they aren’t technically related and that’s what is missing in the English society. Us English don’t know our next door neighbors. I would drive hundreds of miles to buy a vehicle from you just because of who you are and where you come from. I know you are honest. I will admit I am one of those who would rather go to the dentist than to visit a car salesman.
    Keep writing…it’s great therapy
    Have a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

  5. LisaInChicago

    Mose, your words are beautiful. I have a college degree and still don’t quite “get” the vast realm that is the English language. My paragraph and sentence structure probably leave a lot to be desired as well. However, I feel that if you can get your point across so that your readers understand exactly where you’re coming from, you have succeeded as a writer. And Mose, you have definitely succeeded.

    When I was a little girl, probably no more than 7 years old, I hated taking medicine. I would say “I can’t take medicine. I’m Amish.” (Thank you, day trips to Shipshewanna, Indiana for your fine explanation of the Amish life. lol) As the years passed, I also claimed to be Amish when I didn’t want the radio on (to listen to the heavy metal my sister favored, and I hated), when I didn’t want to vacuum, or do other things. It might sound like I was raised to be a soft, spoiled child but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They never bought the “I’m Amish” excuse and in the end, I still did what was expected of me. I did maintain a fascination with the Amish, though, and I never did understand why. I’m still fascinated, and I miss your show very much!

    I was actually just wondering this week, with the holidays coming up, if there was anything that you or those in your community really missed about being Amish. Obviously, you were unhappy enough to leave and risk losing everything you knew and loved, but I couldn’t help but wonder if there weren’t good parts as well. This blog answered my question before I asked it, so thank you.

    In each of these 10 things you listed, I find a bit of my own childhood. We may not have worked from sunup to sundown, but we definitely pulled our weight from the minute we were old enough to do so. I am the second oldest of 6 siblings and by 10 years old, I was responsible for cooking every evening and I could do any chore in the house from mowing the lawn to doing the family’s laundry to bleaching the countertops to snaking a toilet. Back then, I thought it was mean. Now, I can appreciate it, and I am choosing to raise my 5 year old daughter in a very similar way. People, even family, call me mean because we have such high expectations for our daughter, and in the next breath, they praise us for her impeccable manners, her intelligence that blows her kindergarten teacher away, the fact that she’s ALWAYS smiling, and the way she can process and understand things that are beyond her years. To me, it can’t be “mean” to raise her that way when she has turned out so well. And not only that, she is HAPPY. You will never meet a child who smiles more or laughs more or gets more joy out of life – whether it’s a family vacation or a simple walk through the neighborhood to admire the neighbors’ flowers. While it’s true that in the English world, not many 5 year olds have chores that last more than a minute or two, we choose to instill the same value you learned – that nobody can do it alone and it takes EVERYONE in our family to keep the family going. So if that means that her friends do 2 minutes of chores twice a week while she does 20 or 30 minutes of chores broken up throughout each day, then I am proud to be “mean” because that’s the only way she will learn to take pride in what she does and learn that a family is not a group of people that do things for you – they are people who do things together for the good of all.

    I thought a lot about my own upbringing and my daughter as I read your post. While the methods may be different, the end result (I hope) will be the same – that I will raise a compassionate, hard-working child with a love of family, who can find happiness in the little things like singing. I do not know you, and I’m not under the illusion that you are perfect, but I really do admire you – not only for the person you’ve become, but for your desire to mix the good from your Amish life with the good from the English life and help others to see that, while neither world is perfect, neither is 100% evil either.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Mose. You have a lot to be proud of, and I know that those in your community who look up to you could never have gotten as far as they have, or been as happy as they have become, without you.

  6. Have a Christmas filled with Joy and Love from the family you have created and close friends.
    Sometimes a person just has to walk away, from a job, a love one or a parent. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them. It just means that at this point in life you can’t be the person they are trying to force you to be. You are doing a good job.

  7. les.hamlin

    Mose: It doesn’t matter whether your grammar is perfect or not. You clearly speak from your heart and you are probably as articulate as anyone I have ever read in the doing of that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, ideas, and the ponderings of your heart, for so long a period of time as you have done and I would like to encourage you to continue doing that in the future.

    I would like you to know that I have always been interested in the Amish. Not in the sense that I would want to be one of them but mostly out of curiosity I suppose. I have read several books about the Amish and watched many TV programs about them. But it wan’t till after watching the ten episodes of Amish: Out of Order, and reading your blogs, that I began to have what I call a “heart sense” of them. They are clearly, like the rest of us, humans who love, hurt and struggle. You have opened a door for a beginning to my understanding, and doubtless for many others as well.

    I am a recently retired school teacher and guidance counselor. It has been my privilege to work hard for nearly 40 years, to try to educate and advise many, many young people. I have received great blessings, trying with care and compassion, to make a difference in thousands of lives and and have had at least modest success. You were given the opportunity, through national television, to positively affect the lives of many thousands of people and you’ve done a great job. Thanks for taking the time to help us understand the Amish and for being brave enough to share some of your personal life with us. You are a blessing.

  8. bunchesofun

    I can relate to what you are saying. I am “English” and my husband and I joined a plain church 17 years ago. We left 2 years ago. Plain churches definitely have their own culture and no matter how hard you try, and how hard THEY try, you never truly belong. No one’s fault, that’s just the way it is.

  9. rlfbailey

    This is very educational and fascinating to learn about the different aspects. Thank you for taking the time out to do this, and educate the “English”.

  10. Having lived in the world’s largest Amish community for 20 years, I wholeheartedly agree with all 10 items. It’s all true.

    Just a few comments:
    #1: The food is, indeed, amazing whether we are talking about having dinner at the neighbors or eating at a local restuarant.

    #2: Our New Order neighbors have singings on Sunday night a time or two a year and it is beautiful. However, the old German hymns are not my cup of tea! Sounds more like groaning than singing!

    #3: A close knit community cuts both ways. People know your business, but there is also help, comfort, and safety in how close you are to them.

    #4: If you are Amish and disaster strikes, the help will generally be more than is needed. It is an amazing thing to see.

    #5: No doubt, the Amish are onto something with this notion of simplicity. It is perhaps the one thing that makes me envious of them.

    #6: More than anything, this is the big benefit I experience from living in their midst. We rarely lock our doors. My keys are always in the ignition of our cars. If you don’t belong, everyone sees you. It is not possible to blend in and do mischief.

    #7: Stable families are wonderful to live around. There are some horrible Amish marriages, and that is a shame, but on the whole husbands and wives find a way to make it work, and that is a good thing to live around.

    #8: The religion is perhaps the greatest problem I have with the Amish. Some of the man-made rules will never make sense to me. It is a religion of a little grace and a lot of sacrifice and good works – and all that buys you is a “hope” of maybe making it to heaven. It’s disturbing in a lot of ways.

    #9: I have done business for decades with the Amish. The times I have been cheated are so few it isnt even worth mentioning and we are talking about thousands of people.

    #10: The work ethic is very strong, although some older Amish people fret over the fact that most Amish kids are not growing up on farms, and they don’t feel that it is as strong as it used to be. Still, if you hire an Amish kid to help you with something, it is highly unlikely that you would be dissatisfied with the effort they give you.

  11. Thank you, Mose. I am enjoying your blog. I grew up Amish, left when I was 17 more than 60 years ago. Of course, I have many – probably hundreds – of Amish relatives.
    There are many good things about the Amish- I echo your thought about their honesty and good will, and their humor- I love the way the Amish laugh.

    Most of the things about the Amish that I cannot stand has to do with their attitude toward what I call ignorance. Ignorance- and not questioning what one is taught – was a large part of my bringing up. I felt that they just plain valued ignorance. It may be that they equated ignorance with innocence but frankly, I consider being willing to remain ignorant a crime against children. That, and the notion that if you disagreed with the prevailing view of the church that you were rebelling against God. In my view, that is nothing but harmful to children.
    Someday I hope you post your thinking about the differences between the Amish who leave the church and their siblings who remain in the church, both equally bright but with a huge difference in their desires and expectations.

  12. webeable webeable

    My grandfather was raised Dunker, as such taught all of his children who passed on to their children the importance of family. We gathered every month as a family, aunts, uncles, cousins for a dinner, was anything from soup to a pot luck, to a feast for the holidays. Us kids were all close and got along. When someone needed work done we were our own crew as a family. I visit the Amish area around Berlin several times a year and have even made friends with several of them. I never try to change any of them but lend help if needed. I am not cut out for the Amish life but still have many of the values instilled in them.

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