It's hard for me not to view Amish Mafia as an example of egregious exploitation and extreme exaggeration. If any other religious or racial minority sat in this spotlight, there would be trouble for somebody somewhere, and rightly so. But "real Amish" aren't going to speak up about this (or much else…they aren't called the quiet in the land for nothing…) and apparently some of their neighbors find the show simultaneously implausible and irresistible. (It is, unfortunately, in the midst of season three.) In their defense, I offer a few observations from the Amish-hood around Hickory Lane. Here are a few lessons I've learned from my neighbors whose first language isn't English.
1. Remember, every family member matters, littlest ones too.
In a world where a stay-at-home mom has become as rare as a rotary phone, imagine the benefits of two parents at home most days! And when a new baby arrives, throw in an extra aunt for good measure. For 6 weeks! There's a lot of talk these days about helping kids to be all they can be, to reach their full potential, freeing their inner whatever, but I contend we've lost track of a vital piece of the puzzle. I know, "It takes a village," but the core unit of a village is...a family. Children learn to live and work alongside their parents, contributing to the family's well being from an early age. Children learn to be adults by copying adults in their daily activities in the home, the garden, the barn, and the fields.
2. Live with the rhythms of life.
-I've noticed over the years that in early summer, in my neighborhood, all five farmers mow their pastures within a few days of each other. How does that happen? I've joked about National-Mow-Your-Pasture-Week, a holiday that I've never found on my calendar. (Maybe it's in the Almanac?) Actually, each farmer mows the pasture thistles just after the first cutting of hay is in the barn, which is usually before the thistles go to seed.
-Buy straw hats in spring, felt hats for cold winter days, and remember, "NO hat cleaning in November." (November is reserved for weddings!!)
3. Be neighborly.
-Share stuff – wagons, horses, tools, skills and time.
-Stop and greet those you meet.
-Give whatever you have on hand –we have been on the receiving end of morning fresh strawberries, Christmas cookies, just butchered beef, washed lettuce, a dressed duck (undressed still seems like a better adjective to me!) homemade doughnuts, peanut butter spread (now I have the recipe!) a nut cake, a bucket full of cucumbers, fresh doughnuts…and many, many moon pies.
4. Accept what is.
-Receive life's blessings (children, garden produce, healthy livestock, fruitful fields)
and difficulties (sickness, wind damage to the barn roof, crop failure, death, rain on drying hay)
with open hands and a steady heart.
I don't know if there's a Pa. Dutch phrase for "it is what it is" but my neighbors live the concept with uncomplaining serenity .
5. Keep Sundays special.
-To avoid carriage rush hour, trek to church! Little ones ride the wagon or are carried by Dat.
-Focus on God and family, not self and entertainment. Take time to go to church or visit the relatives. (The Amish in our area have church every other week.)
-Wear your Sunday best and go walking with your sisters.
6. Live green. Stay connected to the earth and take care of it.
7. Have fun right where you are!
-Go fishin' on Easter Monday. Or ice fishing on a Saturday in January when the work slows down.
-Buy a box full of books at a public sale, and read them right away.
-Go hunting with your brother on an autumn afternoon.
-If you have trouble with crows in the oats, send your boys out to make a scarecrow.
-When it snows, go out with the children and make a snowman. An Amish snowman, of course...
I'm not saying my Amish neighbors are perfect, or that we should all suddenly "go Amish." But I do think the world would be a better place if more people embraced these simple principles as individuals and within families and neighborhoods. The absurdity of Amish Mafia would be amusing if it wasn't so offensive, insulting and disrespectful. Why in the world would a unpretentious people group like the Amish be a target for this kind of exploitation? Is it really all about money, and fame?
Whatever happened to simple human decency? Obviously, someone at the network has yet make the Discovery that first grader Martha and her little sister Becky already understand: If you're going to be in the neighborhood, it just make sense to be neighborly. -Hummin B.