Thursday, September 23, 2010

Amish Attraction

"What are you, Amish?" cried one of my youth group when I told them there would be no television on their work retreat. From then on, I was known as "the Amish Lady."  They were a difficult bunch but I laughed at their nickname. I secretly DID long to be that "Amish Lady."

I used a computer like no one's business. I was a shopaholic. I did not live on a farm. But after visiting Lancaster, PA and the surrounding area as a child, I was hooked on the Amish lifestyle. My favorite book was Roseanna of the Amish. I loved shoofly pie and the quilts.  But most of all, I loved the sense of community, simplicity, and daily purpose of these people.  

These days, it seem the Amish attraction I felt has become more commonplace. The world is more complicated. Technology has inserted itself even at the dinner table. The stress of life in a society where rules are ever changing can be overwhelming. People are seeking relief and have found it in a romanticized view of  Amish communities.

If you read inspirational women's fiction or romance, Amish books dominate the top seller's lists.  I have been reading a number of these Amish-themed novels lately.  Some show a working knowledge of and even past history as a person who lived in an Amish household. But sadly, some are only jumping on the Amish bandwagon. Simply by adding whoppie pie references, lavish meal descriptions, and cultural information, they hope to find a readership. It is not that simple.

The Amish themselves do not read these books because they view them as an often romanticized or over dramatized view of their lifestyle. The Amish have migrated to more than twenty-five states because they struggle to find affordable land to farm or new businesses they can run. Years as a tight knit religious community has produced genetic diseases which are considered a part of God's plan in their world but are still a tragedy. Violence, members leaving the communities, and accidents are commonplace.  There are so many sects of Amish because they have different views on owning a telephone, riding in cars, even what colors are allowed in their distinctive clothing.  There is a saying, "every time a disagreement starts, a new Baptist church is born." Same goes for the Amish.

Even knowing all these facts, I am still attracted to the Amish precisely because of their own struggles as very real people.  Now, reading all those Amish novels has reawakened my need to pick up some of those practices I have found so appealing over the years.  After two weeks of vacation without a television, I find I don't want to watch the emptiness of it nearly as much (okay, I still have a few favorites).  Due to illness, I have to stay off the computer more than you would think and I feel better for it.  I find purpose in the daily tasks of just keeping my household running. Humility and forgiveness are a big part of their religious beliefs. I need to practice these more in my own life. Lastly, I have decided I don't need to go clothes shopping for the rest of the year. If I could wear a simple black skirt, bonnet and colorful top, I would. But I am just going to have to simplify my wardrobe instead. Now there is a challenge! I will let you know how it goes.

Do you find the Amish life appealing ? Why? Are you wanting to simplify your life? What are steps you can take to do so?