Henry and Jen are a married couple in their late twenties, who live in a double wide trailer about 6 miles outside of town.
Henry works as a local mechanic in a small town of about 1200 people, while Jen works as a Pharmacist. Every morning Henry and Jen get up at 6:00 AM, do their morning chores, feed their two horses, a dozen chickens, and the pet cats, Tammy and Prince. After gulping down a quick breakfast, they jump into the old farm truck and head into town together, to put in another 8 hour shift at work.
In the evening Henry swings by and picks up Jen from the Pharmacy, and they drive home together, usually in silence. They do the chores, eat dinner, watch an hour or so of Television, and then off to bed to catch some sleep, so they can do it all over again the next day.
The Lapp Family
Henry and Jen will never be blessed with children. The animals on their small 7 acre farm help to fill that void a little.
Henry and Jen are just an average American married couple, content to live the average American life, make their small mark in their small world with a handful of people that they have made acquaintances with, and when they pass on, there will be no one to leave their legacy behind.
Henry and Jen both come from rough childhoods. Both were been introduced to alcohol and drugs at an early age, and without the proper mentoring and upbringing, had both fallen into the depths of the evils of addiction. The evil drugs that have a way of making all their worries, pain, torture, and abuse somehow miraculously melt away…. for small periods at a time.
Henry and Jen met in rehab when Henry was 19 and Jen was 17. They were both outcasts, disowned by their already dysfunctional families, and trying to hang onto some form of sanity in life.
And so, Henry and Jen found each other. Although they fight a lot, and their lives are often miserable, mixed with alcohol and drugs, and the children they both want so desperately, but know that they know they can never have. Somehow, through it all, they manage to hold together jobs, a battered relationship, and some hope of a brighter future.
Every once in a while when things get too rocky, they play around with the idea of possibility going their separate ways. Somehow they always find themselves back together, knowing that they share a common ground. A common ground that no one else can take away from them. Yes, They fight, but they understand each other, and the thought of trying to live a life apart, or with other people, is too difficult to fathom.
Once every two months, on the last Sunday of the month, Henry and Jen have just enough extra money to go beyond the confines of their small town, into the large City, eat breakfast at a real restaurant, and do a little shopping. This is date weekend, the rare time when they are able to get away from the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small town, feel free to splash a little extra money around.
And so their lives go by, day after day, year after year, with never an extra dime, no money in savings, but just enough to get by, hoping for that one moment that will forever change their lives. Maybe they win the lottery. Maybe a long lost relative will die and leave some fortune to them. In the meantime, they are content to sit back and wait for that break in life that so many people sit back and wait for. The break that quite possibly will never come.
Karen is a single Mom in her late forties. Karen works as a Writer and Editor. She enjoys her small house in the suburbs of the City. Karen is at the point in her life where she is finally at peace with herself. She is fiercely independent, is proud of the`woman she has become, and above all, Karen is a devout believer. A Christian who goes to church twice a week, studies the scripture regularly, and separates herself from, and almost scornfully looks down on anyone who doesn’t believe that God exists.
Karen has been through a lot in her life. When she was nineteen, she married her high school sweetheart. Together they bought a house, moved in together, and for the world were madly in love. They were both members of a Catholic Church, which they attended regularly. One year after their marriage, they were blessed with a wonderful baby boy. They named him Joseph.
Four months after Joseph arrived, Karen’s world was ripped apart. In stunned disbelief she watched her husband move his half of the possessions out, leaving her and little baby Joseph behind in a house too large for just Two.
Through the tears and heart break, Karen questioned her faith. Is this a punishment from God for something she may have done wrong in her life?
There were many other men who were interested in replacing her late husband, but Karen never again had a desire to find another companion. Karen had been deeply scarred!
Through those early years, the one thing Karen did have, that was a constant, that filled the much needed void, that had an endless amount of love to lavish upon her, was her son Joseph.
Over the years, Karen and Joseph formed a relationship that only a mother and son can form. A bond so strong that nothing could shake it. Karen got a job at the Daily Tribune, as a writer and editor, to support herself and Joseph. She worked her way up through the ranks, became a Manager, and finally, after years of struggles and financial difficulties, successfully made her last mortgage payment. How proud she was when she was able to buy Joseph his first car!
After years of questioning the Catholic Church, and the rules they taught, Karen was finally, once again, comfortable with herself, her role within the church, and her relationship with God. Karen was in her low forties, financially stable, had a Son who was almost marrying age, and would almost certainly give her Grandchildren sometime soon. Life was good.
Alas, but the life Karen had all figured out, took a drastic turn, and she discovered that the world she thought she had a firm grip on, was about to be turned upside down. That sometimes the life one has preplanned for herself may not be the life that her God has in mind.
Joseph broke the news to her one Saturday morning after another late night on the town. Joseph was Gay. He had no desire to marry a woman and give Karen the grandchildren she so desired.
Karen’s world was shattered! Where could she have gone wrong? How could this precious baby that she had raised so proudly, all on her own, possibly let her down like this? How could he, after all that she had devoted to him, the sacrifices she had made, turn his back on her and do such a drastic thing? How could he do this in good faith, when the bible clearly spoke strongly against homosexuality. Indeed, entire cities were burned to the ground with fire and brimstone because of it.
Karen begged and pleaded with Joseph, but her pleading fell upon deaf ears. Joseph had made his decision. Much like his father twenty years earlier, once Joseph made up his mind, he stuck with it, and refused to budge.
Joseph told Karen daily that he still loved her the same as he always had, and that his homosexuality was not her fault, but Karen couldn’t wrap her mind around that concept.
Karen felt that she had no choice. She either had to leave the church and it’s teachings, or turn her back on her son. She chose the latter. Maybe by forcing her son out into the streets, forcing him to find his own way in life, and struggling on his own, he might come to his senses. If all else failed, surely he would miss his own mother so much that he would have a change of heart, and realize the error of his ways.
After rejecting her son, the one thing she had cherished so in life, Karen began to feel a need to get out and explore a little. Occasionally during her writing, she would go to the local restaurant in town, sit in a corner and write. The chatter in her ears of the many people who passed through the Restaurant, relentlessly eating all day long.
After five miserable years of separation from her son, and still no signs of him having a change of heart, Karen began questioning her strategy. Was turning her back on her son really the right thing to do?
And than one day Karen saw a program on television that changed her life. A program that focused on teenagers who made tough decisions in life. They were shunned or rejected by their parents and communities for these decisions.
By listening to these Teenagers speaking, and hearing the child’s side of the story, Karen began to feel ashamed. Maybe her son was no different. Maybe his decision for who he had become in life wasn’t something he or she could control. Much like these kids Karen was watching on TV, who were suffering from being rejected for what Karen considered very minor decisions, maybe her own son Joseph, who she had rejected years before, was hurting somewhere, because of a decision he had to make. A decision he quite possibly had no power or control over.
Mose and Shana are a married couple in their mid thirties living in mid Missouri with three children. For the most part, they live normal lives like other people around them. Shana has a job as a Banker, while Mose is a Car Salesman. Every day Mose and Shana get up early, get 3 sleepy children out of bed, dressed, the oldest one off to school, while the two youngest go to day care.
Shana and Mose, the early years
The one small difference between this family and most other middle class, hard working families in America is the fact that Mose has a story to tell. A background that many people know little about. Mose was born and raised Amish.
After struggling for many, many, many years, he finally broke away at the age of twenty two. Mose met Shana in the outside world, they got married, and started a family.
However, Mose had a very difficult childhood, and having been a survivor of these difficulties, Mose, from a very young age, had a burning desire to share his story. To try and make a difference in life by finding common ground for other people who may have gone through some of those same difficulties. Possibly even by sharing his story of going from the depths of despair and pain, to finding freedom and some form of closure. Maybe he could inspire someone else and give them even the slightest glimmer of hope.
Mose has an overpowering desire to help the Underdog. The person who has never had a legitimate shot in life. The person that he himself was for so many years. To help others like himself who are leaving the Amish faith to try a life on the outside. Who are facing the same rejection that he himself faces.
The one difficulty with this mission that Mose is on, is that he has no desire for fame. He doesn’t want recognition, but rather wants to tell his story, let it do what he set out for it to do, and then crawl into a hole in the ground and disappear. Mose wants to simply be the mailman who drops off the mail, but few people know his name.
But it is not to be. As the story grew, so did the people the story reached, and the amount of people who felt a strong desire to make a connection. People who felt like they had finally found someone who understood them and their lives. Someone, who if they only met in real life, they would have so much in common, that they would hit it off, and become fast friends for life.
As the children started getting older, Mose and Shana found it harder and harder to make ends meet. Between the mortgage, the daycare, and other daily bills that every growing family in America faces, Shana found herself working Saturdays, and Mose found himself usually working 80 plus hours a week on a pretty regular basis.
Alas, but when you work that many hours, there is little time for the family. For those precious children who are growing up, and so desperately need you. And finally, there is even less Mose and Shana time.
Thus, an agreement is reached, that once every two months, a baby sitter would be scheduled, the kids passed off to someone else, for one evening, while Mose and Shana have a chance to go out on the town.
Date night came after an extremely stressful day at work for Mose. Shana picked him up from work, and together they went out to eat at a local restaurant. After all this time at home with the kids, finally, the joy of getting away. The almost childish adventure of knowing you can have a private conversation between each other and no children to interrupt the conversation. Finally, a night out on the town. Finally, just the two of them, that one rare night that comes once every two months, all by themselves…. well almost.
Mose and Shana receive visits from eight or ten people who recognize this person who so openly told his story to the world. People who wanted to linger and have extended Conversations and Autographs. As the evening goes on, Mose develops a cold wall against these faces that are all starting to blend together. People who dare to continue approaching and so harshly invading the privacy of him and his Spouse. People who are using up that precious time they have together. People who want to borrow fifteen or twenty minutes of time, and then leave satisfied, feeling like someone brightened their day. Mose knows he will never see them again.
Mose has learned not to engage in conversation, but rather to say, “Thank you, Thank you”, to all the compliments, and eventually the visitors are satisfied and go back to their meal.
You see, contrary to what people believe when they see him speaking on TV, Mose is actually very reluctant to meet strangers, and even less likely to attempt to become friends. In real life, Mose is painfully reserved and private.
Mose and Shana finally make it out of the Restaurant, slightly agitated that their date night isn’t going quite as quiet and private as they had hoped for.
They randomly find themselves at a nice Country Bar on the edge of town where a local Band is playing some Country Music up on the stage.
And then it happened! The mistake one should never make after an especially stressful day at work. The mistake of trying to drown it all down with alcohol. While a very loyal Shana agreed to be the sober driver, Mose proceeds to indulge in enormous proportions of alcohol.
Sometime during the evening it was determined that Mose would leave his vehicle at his work until the next morning, at which time Shana would bring him back, a much more sober and responsible driver, and take the car home.
The scene the next morning is anything but pretty. It is quite unlike the life you might expect from a man who has crawled out of the depths of despair, now has life all figured out, and is trying to be a guiding light for others.
One would speculate that once someone has been on TV, you now live the life of a celebrity. A life where you sleep in every morning, your life is care free, and you are swimming in money. You take vacations to the beach regularly, and you have some higher authority or power that no one else possesses.
Rather, The scene is that of two very tired parents, now baby sitter less, driving to pick up Mose’s car, making an executive decision to stop and eat breakfast on the town with the three kids, and then go home. Picture then, if you would, a very guilty daddy along for the ride, last night’s liquor still on his breath, a pounding headache, walking into a crowded restaurant with the wife and three kids.
Picture a man who is holding his head in his two hands, trying to drown out the screaming noises all around him, magnified by a hangover from the depths of the deep. The kids vying to get daddy’s attention, and a man carrying the shameful guilt of knowing that he has let himself and everyone around him down, and is setting a bad example for his kids, if they were to find out.
A man who is also aware of his surroundings, and has seen several prying eyes watching him as he tried inconspicuously to meander to his seat, crunch down out of sight, and hopefully no one will recognize him.
It is in this frame of mind that this eventful morning begins. A man at his wits end, who wants three things. Food, quiet, and sleep.
That is the story, and the behind the scenes events, leading up to “The Circumstantial Encounter”, told from the side of Mose and Shana.
Henry and Jen were sitting at their corner table, eating their bi monthly breakfast out on the town. They were eating in silence, because they were in the middle of another argument. A small disagreement that had started the night before when Henry had started complaining about how high the electricity bill was that month, and how if Jen would toughen up, she wouldn’t need the heat turned up so high.
Henry’s heart almost jumps out of his throat when he sees Mose walk across the floor following the receptionist to his table. As Henry and Jen’s eyes meet, they both realize at the same time who Mose is. They both stare, completely oblivious to fact that his family is surrounding him. Their world has stopped, for ever so briefly. That moment has arrived.
They both know it instantly. Here is that bright glimmer. That Break. Without hesitation they rise, make their way directly over to the table, hug Mose, and spill out their life story. How much watching the show has changed their perspective on life! This meeting is a dream come true. It is destiny that they meet. And finally, how they have enough room in their double wide for at least one ex Amish kid who has nowhere else to live.
Mose sits there nodding his head, a pounding migraine leaving a ringing in his ears, and hears them out, inside feeling like the world’s biggest hypocrite, for portraying such a front to the public, while he is more glaringly aware then ever before, that he is just a sinner, and completely and utterly unworthy of such admiration and praise.
Karen is sitting in her corner by the window, the morning sun is behind the maple tree outside the window, half hiding her in the shadows of the crowded restaurant. She is writing on her laptop. For some unknown reason, she has discovered that writing comes more fluently to her in a crowded restaurant, with hundreds of people all around. Maybe it keeps her motivated. At best, it is one of those unexplained things in life that, for no apparent rhyme or reason, work for her.
A strange feeling comes over Karen right in the middle of writing a sentence, and she quickly raises her eyes to scan the room full of people. Karen is a little superstitious, and she has learned to trust her instincts. She has learned to feel eyes behind her back, even when there is no sound. She is seldom wrong, so without even giving it a second thought, she scans the room, and her eyes rest on a familiar face. Karen gathers herself together as she watches a young couple go over, draw up several chairs, and chat for fifteen or twenty minutes. She is convinced she recognizes this person, but she holds back.
Years of heartache, pain, turmoil, and distrust are washing over her. Should she approach him? Yes, she must. There is no other choice.
As the young couple gets up, leave their phone numbers on a piece of paper for Mose to call, and leave their half eaten plates on their table, she watches them leave with many a wistful glance over their shoulders. Karen drifts over to the table.
A raw feeling of emotion sweeping over her like nothing she has felt in years, and she falls to her knees and weeps openly on Mose’s shoulder, pouring out her story. For so many years she has lived in denial, and finally, because of the show, has seen the error of her ways, has reconciled her relationship with her son, and Praise God, has finally accepted him for who he is. Because of the show Mose did, she found a way to forgive him. She has laid her demons to rest. She is somehow at peace with herself and God once again.
On this morning, under the most dire of circumstances, Mose finally got it. The Walls he has built that make him practically unapproachable in public, are down on this particular morning. For the first time, Mose has a Revelation. This lady and all those people mean no harm.They do not mean to pry or invade his private little world. For the first time it sank in that this is all his fault. That because of the show, the role he had in it, how he bared his heart, leaves people no choice. Like this lady, something Mose has said or done during the show, had truly changed an important part of her life, and to ignore that would be doing an injustice to everything he stood for..
How Mose felt during these two visits on this particular morning is hardly important, but besides the aforementioned guilt and unworthiness, he just wants to cry bitter tears of despair. He can’t force the words out of his mouth to Karen, “I just want to spend time alone with my family”. Instead, he listens as Karen finishes her story, wipes her red eyes filled with joyful tears, and goes back to her table to attempt to continue writing.
A deep feeling of disconnect fills Mose’s body as Karen walks away. Without knowing it, she has taken a piece of him with her. Something that he did, for better or worse. He did affect her in a much stronger manner then he could ever imagine. He feels a strong desire to go over and befriend her. Maybe it’s because he influenced such an important decision in her life.
He feels a sense of responsibility to her, to the younger couple that came over earlier, and to everyone whose lives he’s impacted somehow. The overpowering feeling of losing a part of his very being every time someone comes over and shares an emotional story is almost unbearable.
Shana, Mose, and the kids finish breakfast, and Mose begins to feel a little better. He is thinking a little more clearly. As they leave the restaurant, Mose asks himself, “So do I regret the public figure I’ve become”? “Do I regret doing the show”? “If I could take it back, or change any part of it, would I”? And he takes some comfort in knowing that he did the right thing. That there is not one thing that he would go back and change. That the show was done for the right reasons, and that it accomplished above and beyond anything he could ever have imagined. It actually impacted lives in a positive manner!
This Blog was written in dedication to all the people who have ever walked up to me in Public, expecting a great encounter, and were let down.
This is dedicated to the thousands of people who watched as the Ex Amish kids and myself opened our most private Feelings, Secrets, and life’s to an international audience. To those who were touched by the stories about myself, Cephas Y, Michaela, and the other Ex Amish kids who participated on the show, “Amish: Out of Order”. To the thousands who feel an uncontrollable desire to send money, write, email, call, or just reach out somehow, with the best of intentions, and are repeatedly turned away and Rejected. Just know that I personally read every single Letter, Email, or Message ever sent to me.
This is for the all the wonderful people who watched the show and helped make it a success. This is for all the Henry and Jen’s, the Karen and Josephs out there. Thank You, and God Bless you.
The names and locations in this Blog have been changed for privacy purposes.