In this final installment, Aaron Miller continues his discussion of choice in Amish society:

Let me list some choices that I and other Amish people make in their daily lives.

One of the first financial lessons I teach my boys goes like this.

When we are about to attend a social function or community event such as an auction or local farm show or the thresherman reunion or before we take a trip, say to Washington D.C., I hand the boys a twenty dollar bill and tell them, this is your allowance for any extra food or souvenirs they want to buy. Anything they don’t spend they are allowed to put in their piggy bank for savings.  Believe me this stimulates wise spending choices.

When turning 16 the choice of which crowd to associate with is our boys’ choice to make. With advice generally being given only if they ask. This however varies some from parent to parent, but that is our policy.

With their choice of jobs we provide some guidance and practical help such as calling prospective employers if they so desire, although I encourage the boys to do so for themselves. I also encourage them to do something they enjoy and then become good at it.

A rewarding vocation is a huge plus.

Choice of jobs is something I make from time to time as well. The decision to buy a booth at a farmers market and begin a sideline business was a major one made in conjunction with all of the family and only with their support will it continue.

When I made the choice to go ask Sweet Mary for a date and she said yes we made a quite consequential and very rewarding choice, for it lead to the choice of marriage and beginning a family–something I would not trade for any amount of wealth or status.

The choice to be baptized in the Amish church is one I do not regret. For I feel very strongly that it is God’s plan for my life. I did not make my choice on a consideration of which is better or superior, the Amish life or another one. Rather living in harmony with God’s plan makes life so much easier and it feels natural.

Buying a home was a major choice. How big? How many acres? What price range? Do we buy acreage and build one or do we buy an existing one?  Do we buy at public auction or private and so on.  I could go on and on about myriad banal choices we make on a daily basis. Pepsi or Coke, Vanilla or Butter Pecan, Boxers or Briefs, you get the idea.

Granted for the Amish person the spheres of influence and dimensions and role equations of family, peers, society, and self are arranged a bit differently than those of a typical American. Personal desire is not the sole or supreme criteria. Making good choices remains a necessity for happy living.

I was inspired and in complete agreement with the words of Chuck Colson in his book How Now Shall We Live?, when he said:

“Americans have achieved what modernism presented as life’s great shining purpose: individual autonomy, the right to do as one chooses. Yet this has not produced the promised freedom. Instead it has led to the loss of community and civility, to kids shooting kids in schoolyards, to citizens huddling in gated communities for protection. We have discovered that we cannot live with the chaos that inevitably results from choice divorced from morality.”

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