Episode Five recap:
In the month of September 2011, I took one month vacation from my job selling cars and traveled to a handful of midwestern states, visiting some Amish communities. The camera guy and I slept in hotels and motels all across Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wisconsin. We met a lot of great people, ate a lot of new, and great food, and filmed a lot of scenes. Some of the footage was used, a lot wasn’t. I always feel bad for the people who dressed up, cleaned their houses and yards, figuring it needs to look good for TV, then for various reasons, it doesn’t quite fit into the narrative.
Take, for example, my trip to Wisconsin, (a flash forward to Episode Six). Much of Wisconsin, my native state, was spent filming with a biker organization called the Christian Motorcycle Association. The group went out of their way to welcome us, to give me the warm welcome I should’ve received from my Amish family, who lived only six miles away. But the narrative simply didn’t work. The story in Wisconsin was for me to try and get back a long-lost relationship with my mother, and when the footage of the motorcycle group reached the editing office, it was simply too far of a stretch to try and tie it into my mother. To the members of the Christian Motorcycle Association, God Bless you guys! I will never forget your hospitality.
In Wisconsin I tracked down one of my old scholars that I taught in school while Amish. We spent a Sunday afternoon at the school grounds talking about old times, why we chose to leave the Amish, and how my leaving first may have influenced him to follow later. There was only one problem with the footage. During much of the meat and bones of our conversation, we sat on opposite ends of a teeter-totter board, and yes, we were going up and down. Looking at the footage later, there really wasn’t a way to make this scene work, where two grown men are playing together on a children’s’ school playground. In short, we looked like we could’ve been lovers, or creepers waiting to hand out candy to children.
Allen, an old student of mine when I taught Amish school
I was certainly impressed by the differences in culture and religion in the Amish communities across the Midwest. Mose’s Observation: The longer a community has been established, the more liberal it becomes. To have someone like Elsie, who works in the Kettle Village and gives horse and buggy rides to tourists, and she, baptized in the Amish church, why, some of the bishop’s back in my area would’ve pulled their beards out. In my area of the world, where the Amish are much more strict, they coincidentally are not as loved, or accepted, by the outside world. Could it be that, if outsiders became better acquainted with the Amish and what turns their gears, everyone could live among each other in peace and harmony?
Side Note: I maintained my job as a car salesman during this trip. The balancing act was unreal. On any given day I was visiting a new church, had anointing oil running down my shirt, or was burning some sad letter in a cemetery (therapy for some past trauma), or riding motorcycles or teeter-totters, all the while taking sales calls on my cell and putting out fires with old customers. In fact, in the month of September, although my GM gave me the entire month off, I was in the top five in sales, out of a sales team of sixteen. Would I choose that life every month? Absolutely not. I was a walking scarecrow of nerves and stress by the time the month ended.
Esther M decided to follow the message she was receiving from above. While she had wanted a career in filming, there were conflicting voices and she finally chose to call it quits with her acting career.
I made a trip to Indiana University to speak in front of a classroom of college students. As if I wasn’t already scared enough (I had never spoken in front of a group of strangers before) the night before the event I became sick. Not puking sick, but 100 plus temperatures sick. After battling numerous demons through the night, no sleep, and no food for the last twenty-four hours, I decided to do the talk anyway. I weird thing happens to an amateur, like me, in a moment like this. (Or maybe I’m going to broad in assuming it happens to a lot of people, but it did for me) I assumed most great speakers just… wing it. They stand up in front of a crowd and inspiration hits them between the eyes, and they rock the audience. So… I tried that. Well, I am not a great speaker. And I learned most prepare speeches and read off transcripts, teleprompters, and have practiced many, many times. The phonies! How dare they! Well, from now on, so will I. While my talk wasn’t horrible, I learned a valuable lesson—prepare. Don’t think you are all that, then fall flat on your face when you run into a hiccup. I spoke for forty-five minutes, then took Q&A's for another fifteen, then we wrapped it up. All in all, it was a blast, and quoting the words of a my very worried field producer/cameraman, I knocked it out of the ballpark. He, like usual, was being way too generous…
Episode Six preview:
Episode six will, hands down, be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is the most ‘out of control’ I have ever allowed myself to… shall we say… be led. By now some of you may have gathered that I have struggled with a traumatic childhood, and that I have struggled with my spirituality, and whether there is hope for my salvation after leaving the Amish faith. Because of doctrine that was pounded into my head from a time when I was too young to understand it, I was told that hellfire awaits those who leave the Amish. A thousand well-meaning pastors, rabbis, or regular folk have tried to change those indoctrinations, some using the scripture, others simply using common sense, or stats. Bottom line, one can’t possibly know what I am struggling with, unless one has walked my walk. The journey to visit other Amish communities emphasizes that struggle, and I would give almost anything to not share this personal struggle with the world, but, I suppose if it can inspire, or help others who are struggling with similar pasts, then I will need to suck up my feelings on the matter.
After watching these events, if you haven’t totally disowned me for my messy life, please contact me through the ‘contact’ form on my website. Tell me if you have had similar experiences. I promise I will not share your story with the world.
Until next time… Peace and Love to all…