You may remember hearing a while back from Anne, whose son Ed joined the Amish. Anne has just returned from a visit to see Ed and her new grandson in Minnesota. She also spent some time recently in Pennsylvania. I think you’ll enjoy this update in which she sheds light on how others, both Amish and non-Amish, have responded to her son’s decision.
Two recent events have brought me up short with thoughts of how those around me think about the choice my son has made to become Amish. As you might expect, these reactions tell me more about the people themselves, and less about our actual situation. But it’s always interesting, so I thought I’d write you some thoughts about it.
First, about a month ago, my daughter, Fiona and I participated in the half marathon in Bird In Hand, PA, in Lancaster Co. Lots of Amish run this race and it winds through beautiful Amish countryside, with many Amish families along the side to watch you go by. By the way, it was really odd to me to see people lined up alongside the road, just watching us. Normally, the locals near a route are there to cheer the runners on. This was the quietest run I’ve done!
At any rate, the most memorable moment of this weekend was running alongside an Amish family (mom, dad, two mid teen kids) and telling the dad that my son was also Amish. He had been cheerfully encouraging everyone around him, yelling out “Keep going and you’ll get to Canada” more than once. But when I told him this, he was completely stunned. All he said, over and over, was “This is MOST unusual!” I don’t think he ever recovered from the blow, ha, ha.
Then a second event that day was worth noting as well. We went into a small quilt shop where the shopkeeper was an Amish girl. She was friendly, helpful and courteous. As we talked I told her about Ed. She seemed shocked by such news! I found that when I got home, she forgot to include envelopes for the note cards I purchased, which seemed to corroborate my suspicion that she was somewhat undone to think an “English” could become Amish. Seems this is quite unheard of among these Amish communities. This characterized my time in Lancaster County; a feeling of being “on the outside” which is very different from the reception we get when we visit our son in Minnesota. Perhaps I can write more about that in a later note.
Otherwise and probably more importantly for us, has been the reaction of friends to Ed’s becoming Amish. We’ve found that most people are initially supportive. But after a few months of saying nice things, like, “Well, everyone has to make their own choice about how to live, “ and, “Oh, it’s great that he’s so committed to principle that he would make this kind of sacrifice”, the comments become more honest. I’ve recently had friends tell me how sad it is that Ed’s new baby boy(more about this darling child in another post!) will not have the choices Ed had growing up; that’s what life is all about, right? Freedom, choice? Others have said they wonder how long he’ll be able to keep this up, as it’s such a hard life (they are right about that).
One of the hardest things for me personally has been the dear friend who increasingly “gawks” at our situation. In her view of life, (though she claims Christ) the most important things are wealth and prestige. BEING somebody is what it’s all about. I know she feels very sorry for me. So many of our friends come to us as if they are consoling us, just there to help us with this terrible situation. My favorite comment is, “Well, it could be worse; he could be on drugs!” At least this person is being honest.
I REALLY want to tell all these friends that I’m proud of my son (and I usually do). The last time I checked out Scripture, the most important God-given guides for people who want to live in His ways are pretty simple: love God & love your neighbor (yep, I just checked; that passage is still there). I am convinced that context is pretty big in determining how we chose to live out those two overriding commands. And I’m convinced that Ed is in a much better situation than most of the rest of us, for incorporating those things into his life.
Of course, no one has a perfect situation that will automatically lead to holiness; I’m not saying that. But living in an intentional community that forces you to be accountable, work hard, and not be distracted with all the ridiculous silliness of modern life can certainly help. I know most of you reading this blog would not be like this gawking friend, and I really appreciate you. It’s very encouraging to have friends (even virtual friends) who find the life Ed’s chosen to be challenging and worthy of contemplation. Did I say thanks?
Amish marathon photo: reflexblue/flickr