I know I’m not the only one who is fascinated by the Amish, because Channel 4 has made yet another series about encounters between Amish people and British teenagers. In the first series, “Amish: World’s Squarest Teenagers,” we watched with fascination as five Amish teenagers came to Britain during their “Rumspringa” (a time when they are free to sample the modern world, in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to commit to their church and community). We saw them meeting their British counterparts, going out to a nightclub, and encountering the sea for the first time. In this series, “Living with the Amish,” the tables are turned and British teens go to live with Amish families.
Why are we so fascinated by the Amish? I think it’s probably because many of us crave peace, community, simplicity and faith. Many of us would like to get off the materialistic merry-go-round and disappear into a nostalgic world for a bit. I wrote about this yearning and idealisation in my story A Simple Life, which is about an American girl who realises her dream of visiting an Amish community.
I first encountered the Amish when I attended a conference in Pennsylvania. Later when we lived in Illinois we often went to the town of Arthur, where there’s an Amish community. Amish quilts are famous for their stunning simplicity and use of colour; the sight of a horse-drawn buggy driving along is very picturesque. Their craftsmanship is very highly regarded by their non-Amish neighbours. I recently read an interesting book, a conversation between an Amish woman and her non-Amish friend (Plain Wisdom by Cindy Woodsmall & Miriam Flaud). I suppose the most interesting thing is how much the two of them have in common, rather than the reverse.
While I can’t kid myself that I would survive in an Amish world (no blog?!), I do admire the Amish for living out their principles. Five years ago the Amish attracted worldwide attention when an unthinkable tragedy unfolded in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. A gunman, Charles Carl Roberts, shot ten schoolgirls, killing five of them before shooting himself. To me the most extraordinary thing was that almost immediately, the Amish forgave the perpetrator. On the very day of the shooting, they visited his family to express their forgiveness in person. Today, the gunman’s mother Terri Roberts helps to care for one of her son’s victims who has been left paralysed. To my mind, this demonstration of Christian forgiveness is far more significant than not using buttons or electricity.
I was a little surprised to find a book of Amish proverbs here in Scotland, but I did – and I bought two, because I wanted to give one away on my blog. It’s an interesting book with beautiful photographs, explanations of the Amish way of life and their beliefs, and of course a lot of proverbs!
If you’d like a copy of “Amish Proverbs,” please leave a comment. (I’m happy to post anywhere in the world.) I will pick the winner on the 2nd of January.
Feel free to tell others about the giveaway in your blogs if you’d like. Good luck!