My son suggested I visit a spa. I truly wanted to go where I’d never been before and told me that one of my goals was to go to Amish country, check out here. Everything that I had read about the civilization seemed inviting and I believed that 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 place is a significant drawing card for tourists. In fact, Pennsylvania boosts bringing in $1.8 billion each year in tourism, most which can be attributed to summer guests in Amish communities.
I loved the six days that I stayed in Bird in Hand and learned a great deal about the values that hold the community together:
1. Religion – Like most groups, the Amish left Europe because of religious persecution. It must have been quite an experience to leave their homes and families so as to go to the new land of America with the hope of securing freedom for their beliefs.
2. Community – There are not many Amish groups in Canada. They primarily live in Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Although they reside in single-family houses and on family farms, they’re extremely close knit.
3. Self-support – They cooperate and share their work, religion and social activities with others in the area. They do not vote or believe in insurance but rather meet the needs of the vulnerable without external support.
4. Rules – Each community has specific rules that their baptized members must follow. None of them use electricity, technology or vehicles in their lives. Though they are a branch of the Mennonites who tend to concentrate more on the Bible, the Amish tend to concentrate on rules made in their districts which are enforced by their chosen Bishops.
5. Family – Children are viewed as a gift from God. As a result, families are big and often include six or more siblings that are close in age. Relatives usually live within buggy-drive space so there’s inter-generational contact.
6. Language – The Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch in the house. Their kids don’t learn English until they begin school which they attend until they’ve 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 crops harvested using horses. Corn, soybeans, tobacco, and cauliflower as well as garden produce brought income but currently only twenty percent of the Amish have farming as their principal source of income. Some have moved from their original homesteads to areas where tourism is not as prevalent in order to protect their unique identity.
8. Today, many have businesses that sell their lovely handmade furniture, garden sheds, quilts, and meals.
9. Simplicity – The Amish foster humility and this is evidenced in their unadorned homes, uniformity of dress and patterns. Lovely!
10. Forgiveness – The Amish strongly believe and practice the belief that the individual who does not forgive is the person who suffers. From birth they are taught that God forgave them and they’re to do the same without question. That doesn’t mean that they don’t feel strong emotions like anger, hurt or grief. They do, however, let go of resentment and bitterness quickly and find it hard to understand that others may not know that this is just common sense.
The Amish aren’t perfect! They are human. They do not like the notion that some”Englishers” have experienced an erroneous and negative impression of them through television and movies.
Remaining in an Amish community has given me some insight into how they could have remained so consistent and loyal to their values for over three hundred years while all the world around them has changed!