A couple of heart-breaking stories this week. An 11-month-old Amish baby died late Sunday night when it fell from a moving buggy in Missouri. The person holding it had fallen asleep.
Yesterday morning, an Amish woman in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, succumbed to serious burns suffered in a home explosion. She had thrown kerosene on a fire to get it burning better.
The regularity of Amish accident stories makes me wonder: Is life riskier when you’re Amish? No doubt, one reason we hear these stories so often is because the victims are Amish.
But Amish are exposed to dangers most 21st-century English Americans are not. Amish life still revolves around manual labor–the roaring, crushing, slashing equipment of the farm and shop.
Many technologies Amish use–from wringer washers to horse-drawn corn binders–are inherently more dangerous. On the whole, Amish are less likely to seek coventional medical attention for injuries and illnesses.
Also, the sheer numbers. An Amish mother with a half-dozen little ones running around the farm is just going to have a harder time of it. Especially compared to her English counterpart, with a single child sequestered away in a padded and monitored suburban home. Amish life is not safety-locked.
Not to say that Amish parents are neglectful. Amish children learn quickly from parents and siblings what can be touched and what will burn. Amish parents take precautions non-Amish do.
For instance, I can’t speak for everyone, but when I transport Amish friends and their toddlers, they are always careful to remember car seats. Amish also participate in safety programs. Events like “Safety Days” in Mount Hope, Ohio are heavily attended by Plain people.
I suppose you could also look at this question from another perspective. Are Amish lives physically more dangerous, but spiritually more secure?
Some Amish teens dabble in drugs, drink, find bad sites online, get driver’s licenses and drive too fast, and are otherwise exposed to “big-city” temptations, regardless of their Plain rural upbringing.
Growing up English might leave one better prepared when first meeting such physical and spiritual dangers on your own, I imagine. Though the “Amish cocoon” is porous–outside influences inevitably enter Amish society, no matter how remote or conservative the community.
But Amish society consistently produces people who are morally grounded, law-abiding, and even if they don’t join an Amish church–typically guided by strong Christian beliefs. Not to idealize the Amish, but I think that’s hard to dispute.
I don’t know if we can balance, or even really compare, spiritual and physical hazards. But the question got me wondering. What are your thoughts?
And I hope you’ll spare a thought–or prayer–for a couple of grieving families this week.
Photo credit: Cindy Seigle
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