My Amish Adventure: Day 6, Saying Goodbye

I woke up this morning with a question from Janice.  “Would you like breakfast tacos with salsa?” We had gone almost an entire week without salsa and Janice is in withdrawal.    We did eat at a local restaurant in Cambridge on Sunday.  When we left we were deciding whether to return later.  Janice commented that the food was good but nothing to write home about.  I disagreed.  How many other meals have you had that they served you fried chicken, mash potatoes, dressing, rolls, noodles and gravy over everything?

Her question about tacos reminded me I was headed back to my other reality in a couple of days. This day was a day filled with sadness.  We knew that this was the last day we would see each other for a very long time.

The day started with my visiting again with the group of leaders with which I had worked closely over the last few days.  They quizzed me about how to handle a variety of issues and always seemed to like the answers I gave.  They were a very receptive audience, ready to learn and make their community better.

An issue they have been dealing with is setting up standards for this relatively young community.  Most of the leaders are in their 40’s and want to keep the old traditions.  The younger ones in the community are pushing  for a relaxing of those standards.  Sounds very similar to conversations I have had with church leaders in the past.

Some of the questions before them is whether to allow gas powered engines to run the conveyor as they load hay in the barn.  They want to keep the simpler ways and use the horses when possible.  The constant pull to become more flexible with these rules is causing some tension and the leadership is forging a unified front.

Their way of life does have a strong appeal to those of us who grow weary of the busyness and clutter of our society.  I taught on parenting tonight and started with all I had observed that the Amish were doing well.  The children all have a purpose almost from the time they can walk.  They help the family survive by helping with chores.  There are no simple tasks as even the most mundane is important to keep the family functioning.  The cow needs milked twice each days; three meals cooked from scratch must be cooked; the dishes need washed and put up; the garden needs picked;  tomatoes canned; fruits are ready to be made into preserves; wood needs to be chopped; the horses need fed and shod; and the list continues.  Everyone is needed and is important.

They practice having all meals together.  They pray before the meal and at the end.  No one starts another chore until the meal is through and the prayer of thanksgiving is said.

They are not perfect parents, so my talk was received well.  They are not very affectionate and often bark out commands.  They can focus on what their children are not doing right instead of what they are doing well.  They get angry at their children and often say things that are not very nurturing.  Sounds a lot like us.

The constant challenge, especially when I am addressing a large group, is to make my illustrations something to which they can relate.  I had to constantly think on my feet.  I talked about how in our culture we don’t do dinner together very well.  It is like birds on a wire that come in and go as they please sometimes.  I asked what would happen if you didn’t milk your cow everyday.  They said that when you did get around to milking it, the cow might not be too friendly to you.  That was my opening to talk about touch other for sex.  They laughed so easily.  I think they were laughing with me and not at me.

After my talk for the evening was completed, there were lots of tears of sadness as we said goodbye.  Simple yet wonder gifts were shared.  We have bread, jam, plagues, poems, letters, fruit, tomatoes all coming back with us.  Pictures were hand drawn and painted.  These were real expressions of love that no sweater from Dillard’s could have even come close.

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