In a world of technological advances, fast paced hectic lives, economic uncertainty and heated political issues...live a group of people that are not affected and in many cases, are not even aware of the chaos that surrounds them. These people live in a community that puts forth great effort not to "conform to the world." For most of our lives, the thought of living this way is inconceivable. However today, many of us find ourselves reevaluating our lives and embracing some of the fundamental values and life styles of the Amish.
The Amish live plain and simple lives. They do not worry about things like the stock market, nationalized health care, welfare, Medicare, Social Security or retirement. They basically operate their own government, church and community...and it works, actually it works quite well. Perhaps there are a few lessons all of us can learn from the Amish. Let's take a look at who they really are.
What Makes a Person Amish?
Many people view Amish as a religion and as a race...but technically, it is a religion. A religion filled with so many traditions that it separates them from the rest of society making them appear to be an actual race. There are different sects of Amish from Old Order Amish to New Order Amish. The biggest differences in these sects are household liberties. For example, a New Order Amish home may have a refrigerator that runs on a generator or solar power, while an Old Order Amish home may not even have indoor plumbing.
The core of the Amish religion is Christianity. It is in their interpretation of scriptures (or I should say lack of interpretation) that separates them. They view scriptures literally at their word. For example: the scripture Romans 12:2..."Be not conformed to this world"...to them that means a total separation from government, people of non-Amish belief and also means eliminating their dependency upon things created by the rest of the world for survival. This includes electricity, cars, telephones and modern conveniences. To other Christians, that scripture means not to get caught up in things like money, possessions or basically things that create corruption in people.
How Do the Amish Live?
The Amish believe Jesus is the Son of God and celebrate religious holidays such as Easter, Ascension Day and what they call Olde Christmas in January. The Amish primarily are of German and Swiss descent. They speak what is referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch which is the Schwebish dialect of German. They are a very peaceful people. They do not believe in war, abortion or divorce. To the rest of the world they are "viewed" as living perfect lives without sin.
They are not perfect and would never claim to be perfect. They struggle with desires and temptations just as we all do. It is the way that those sins are dealt with that makes them different.
When someone goes astray, the entire community grieves and works together to bring about correction. Unresolved problems or bad behavior will eventually lead to a visit from the Bishop and the Elders of the church.
The Amish do not have health insurance. Instead each family pays money into the church - very similar to tithing. A portion of this money is set aside for what they refer to as "Amish Aid” which is a fund that is dedicated to health care costs incurred due to an illness of a member of the church. The Amish believe strongly in alternative treatment and natural remedies. You would be amazed at how many ailments "vinegar" seems to cure.
What Do the Amish Do for Work?
The Amish are known to be exceptionally hard workers and for their superior woodworking skills. Their hearts however are still that of "farmers." Unfortunately, today many of them are forced to take jobs outside of farming for survival. If a small farmer struggles to survive today, can you imagine the struggles that the Amish farmer faces? They are forbidden to use any modern conveniences and this includes the use of tractors.
Today many of them make their living as craftsmen in the furniture or "woodworking" industry.
The Amish live primarily on farms or build houses on the land that has been in their family for generations. Upon retirement, parents move into a smaller house called "the dawdy haus" which translates to grandfather's house. This house is located on the same property as the family home. A family member then takes over possession of the family home, provides care for their parents and takes over the responsibilities of the farm. There are times that there are 3 or 4 generations of a family living in separate houses on the same property. The only time that the Amish are placed in a nursing home is when they have an illness that the family is not qualified to care for.
The Amish are diversified farmers and good stewards of their land. They grow crops and plant gardens. They have horses, milk cows, chickens, pigs, goats and beef cattle. Every member of the family contributes in some way to the daily chores associated with farming. Today they mostly farm for the needs of their own families.
How Do the Amish Live Day-To-Day?
The Amish are generational thinkers. When they make decisions, they take future generations into consideration. They are more than willing to pay the price and make sacrifices today for the benefit of their children and their children's children.
The Amish are very strongly committed to their families as well as their community. When a tragedy occurs, such as a death, illness, fire or an act of God, the entire Amish community is there to lend a helping hand to the family in need. The community will provide meals, around the clock care, help with farming, money and basically anything a family may need in a time of crisis.
What Does it Really Mean to be Amish?
Well, it appears that it means living a life of service to your family, your farm, your community and to your church. In return for this life of service you are rewarded peace of mind throughout your life.
That is definitely something we all could use a bit more of these days.