Amish Keeping Apart in a Fast Paced Society

Amish Quilter - Amish Quilt in Frame

To refuse to be swept away in the rush of cars and mobility, gives a sense of security to the Amish way of life. Since it is not easy to go places, you must be content both where you are, and with whom you are. Think of how uncomfortable it would be, to have to go out to the barn, in all extremes of weather, and get your horse ready to get hitched to the Amish buggy. (The Amish find a lot of their horses at auctions, and purchase trotters - those horses that are not good enough to race, and yet have been already broken to the buggy or wagon) You finally have him in position, backed him up to the buggy and have hitched him up. Next you have to travel at between 5-10 mph on roads that have tractor trailers and sight seers whizzing by. You freeze in the winter, and fry in the summer's heat (no heat or air-conditioning in these little black boxes known as Amish buggies).

Remember back to when you would ride your bicycle on the edge of a busy road. This gives you the best comparison of danger mixed with determination that the Amish feel everytime they drive the streets in their buggies. And just like you slow down going uphill on your bicycle, the horse also slows down on uphill roads. And then there are the traffic lights - there is no 0 to 60mph measured in seconds, as in matter of fact, there is no 60mph ... just a slow steady clopping along the macadam. In a day where more personal space is required by us, both in our homes and in our vehicles, the Amish frequently have their numerous children on the back bench in the buggy, their laps covered by an old Amish quilt, and a couple more children on the front bench between mom and dad... and remember, you have to keep some room for all the groceries or store goods you have purchased. (A common sight on Sunday mornings here in south-central Pennsylvania, is the horse and Amish buggy with a bike rack attached to the back. With their extra set of wheels on the buggy, the young teens can get to meeting on time in their parent's buggy, but do not have to go right home after the fellowship time. Instead, on Sunday afternoons you see groups of the young people biking to gatherings held at different homes, riding the bicycle back home when the frolic ends. They do not have to leave in early afternoon when the parents get tired and want to go home.)

Settling back in your imaginary Amish buggy, you arrive at your destination, and ignore the stares while trying to dodge the pointed clicking cameras. As you shop, the tourists 'casually' follow you trying to see what a real Amish person chooses to purchase. You can appreciate why the Plain People tend to go to the shops that make it comfortable for them, that allow them to chat with their friends they might meet there, and shop in stores that display items that will be a help to them in their non-electric world.

Then you reverse the slow trip home, but now you have the buggy to park, the horse to unhitch, brush down and feed before you can even think about putting the groceries away. Hopefully you have a child that is old enough to assist with the horse, or Grandpap is in the yard and will take over with the outside chores so you can attend to the inside work.

Because of their determination to move at a slower pace, without the traps of convenience and gadgetry that consumes time in its effort to save time, the Amish get along together in their families, and often, they become each others closest friends. The large extended family members have seen your struggles, know the fears and motivators that drive you, and yet they accept you and value your contribution to the group. They love you enough to not only see the quirks that you as a individual have, but they also love you enough to decide not to see the quirks: they choose to not focus on the "thorns", but search for, and believe in the hidden "roses" that are within.

For the Amish young person, if you only know about 20 people in your age group, you will tend to learn about those 20, and work to get along with them since you are an intregal part of their lives, and they are the threads in the very fabric that holds your world together. Your school mates will be there for you for your entire life. Casual acquaintences and surface friendships are not the fabric that will build a community, nor are they the soil that will help to establish long-term roots and growth in a society. The Amish do not have the luxury of travelling to another part of town to relocate, or move to another part of the state or country, because the problem of even seeing the different locations becomes a task that is not easily manuvered.

To maintain a close knit society such as the Amish community, takes commitment, effort and a total belief that their way is the best way for them. Traditions are passed down, recipes and quilting patterns are cherished through the generations. The Older Amish men are productive by helping with chores on their sons farm, and the Amish grandmother quilter brings in spending money by selling their Amish quilts. Inconveniences are considered a small sacrifice to make for the knowlege that their family structure will remain intact, and their Plain way of life is being preserved for generations.