In August, I decided that I needed a break! My son suggested that I go to a spa,he said it would be relaxing. I truly wanted to go where I had never been before and told me that one of my goals was to visit Amish country. Everything that I had read about the culture seemed inviting and I thought I would benefit from the relaxing style and simplicity of being around their relaxing and simple culture.
Bird in Hand is a rural village with a population of 300 people but the area is a significant drawing card for tourists. In actuality, Pennsylvania boosts earning $1.8 billion per year in tourism, most which can be attributed to summer guests in Amish communities.
1. Religion – Like most groups, the Amish left Europe because of religious persecution. It must have been quite an adventure to leave their homes and families in order to go to the new land of America with the hope of securing freedom for their own beliefs.
2. Community – There aren’t a lot of Amish groups in Canada. They primarily live in Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Although they reside in single-family homes and on family farms, they’re extremely close knit.
3. Self-support – They cooperate and share their work, faith and social activities with others in the region. They don’t vote or think in insurance but instead meet the needs of the vulnerable without outside support.
4. Rules – Every community has specific rules which their baptized members must follow. None of them use electricity, vehicles or technology in their lives. Although they are a branch of the Mennonites who often focus more on the Bible, the monks have a tendency to concentrate on rules made in their districts that are enforced by their preferred Bishops.
5. Family – Children are viewed as a gift from God. As a result, families are big and often consist of six or more siblings that are close in age. Relatives usually reside within buggy-drive distance so there is inter-generational contact.
6. Language – The Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch at the home. Their kids do not learn English until they begin school which they attend until they have reached the grade eight level.
7. Living off the Land – In the past, Amish were mostly farmers who believed in hard work where fields were tilled and plants harvested using horses. Corn, soybeans, tobacco, and cauliflower in addition to garden produce brought income but now only twenty percent of the Amish have farming as their principal source of revenue. Some have moved out of their original homesteads to regions where tourism isn’t as prevalent to be able to protect their distinctive identity.
8. Skills – The Amish are experts at finding niches and filling them. Today, many have companies that sell their beautiful hand-made furniture, garden sheds, quilts, and meals. There is nothing like a fresh pretzel and glass of homemade root beer on a warm summer day!
9. Most restaurants in the Lancaster area have a row of rocking chairs outside so people can just relax while waiting for a table. Lovely!
10. Forgiveness – The Amish strongly believe and practice the belief that the person who does not forgive is the person who suffers. From birth they are taught that God forgave them and they are to perform the same without question. That doesn’t mean they don’t feel powerful emotions such as anger, hurt or despair. They do, however, let go of resentment and bitterness quickly and find it tough to understand that others may not know that this is simply common sense.
The Amish aren’t perfect! They are human. They don’t like the notion that some”Englishers” have had an inaccurate and negative impression of them through movies and television.
Staying in an Amish community has given me some insight into how they might have remained so consistent and loyal to their values for over three hundred years while all the world around them has changed!