LOL… yup, I’ve heard that before.
While it’s true I don’t have a TV, I am not Amish. But the Amish are an interesting people – and America is fascinated by these folks that live among us. It’s very interesting to me that, for the most part, you don’t hear anything negative about this group. Nearly all other society/religious groups that present views or teach values that are different from the mainstream are quickly vilified and thrown into the “cult” category. Yet the Amish are nearly universally admired and respected by mainstream America.
I am by no means an Amish Expert. What I “know” of the Amish is this: they ride around in horse & buggies, live in closed communities, have funny names, beards, and hats but do not have electricity, are incredibly self-reliant, and, yet, still somehow have a need to shop at Walmart.
I recently stumbled upon an audio book titled “Amish Values for Your Family” by Suzanne Woods Fisher. Suzanne is an Amish Expert. For a living she writes Amish fiction and nonfiction. She has studied the Amish lifestyle for a good portion of her life – it seems her grand father was Amish. Her writing does not attempt to convert America to the Amish life, but rather focuses on how we in mainstream America can incorporate their principles into our daily lives. And that is exactly what “Amish Values for Your Family” is designed to do.
For the rest of this blog I will recap what I took away from listening to her book. I definitely recommend you check out this book – especially if you have young children and struggle to live an incredibly fast paced life that seems to be consumed with E-this & E-that (or i-this & i-that)…
- Since 1990 American children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week.
- Structured sports time for kids has doubled – and definitely become exponentially more competitive.
- Parents are spending 40% LESS time with their children than they did in the 1980’s.
- Family’s eat dinner together 33% less and vacation together 28% less… some of my best memories are from these two activities – I can’t rob my children of these!
- Divorce is nearly 0%.
- The Amish have a 90% retention rate… meaning that 9 out of 10 that are raised Amish stay Amish. I don’t believe there is a “faith” or other belief system (not to exclude atheist, agnostic, or even the political realm) that can come close to that number… and who holds a belief that they don’t want their kids to embrace?
- Depression is only about a fifth as common among the Amish. So those that want to claim the low divorce and high retention rate is due to oppression and coercive tactics have to explain how they can be so happy to be oppressed – and I imagine the number of Amish on the popular American anti-depressant drugs is nill. So we can’t claim they’re drugged into it either.
- The Amish have a much lower rate of heart disease and cancer than those of us in the mainstream. Think of how many of your loved ones have been prematurely taken from your life because of these killers. No doubt this is due to the Amish’s ability to harvest their own foods organically versus relying on the processed and synthetic foods most of us consume daily.
The book is laced with Amish wisdom. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The kind of ancestors you have are not as important as the ones your children have.
- Very few burdens are heavy if everyone lifts.
- Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yeild to that which is about us.
- Pray for a good harvest, but continue to hoe.
- A happy home is more than a roof over your head, it’s a foundation under your feet.
Last week I was sitting in my recliner with my laptop on my lap (crazy, huh?). Kimberly was looking at facebook on her phone. Noah was playing Madden ’08 Football on the Wii. Kaity was on the computer in the school room. Annabelle was playing on the Nintendo DSi. I’m not sure what the dogs and fish were doing. It was bed time when I realized what we were doing. I just had to shake my head. The next night we unplugged and sat around the table playing Skip Bo.
While the book is filled with story after story depicting Amish life – my favorite story was about a father and son that were building a rabbit hutch together. They were pretty close to their neighbors who were not Amish. While they were working on it the neighbor man came over and asked how much money they had spent buying the materials to build the hutch. After the answer was given the neighbor scoffed and told the Amish father that the store in town had hutches on sale for half that price, they wouldn’t have had to spend the whole day working in the sun – they could’ve just bought it and saved some money too! The Amish father said they looked at those, but decided they could make a hutch that would last much longer than the store bought one. The neighbor stuck to his belief they should have just bought the hutch – “No need to re-invent the wheel,” he said.
The Amish father shook his head and replied, “Unless you’re trying to teach your son how to use a hammer and saw. Unless you want to give your son skills he can use for a lifetime. And you’re trying to teach him to build things that last. To take pleasure in his work. Unless you don’t mind missing those good talks a father and son have while they’re working together, side by side. If you don’t mind missing those things, then – sure, you can buy the hutch down at the feed store.”
This man could NOT afford to buy the hutch.
And honestly, can any of us afford that half-priced hutch?