The Road Less Traveled Where Time Stands Still

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I think it's safe to say that many of us are living in a somewhat sheltered world.  We live our lives, day to day pretty much focused on our own family, our friends, our co-workers....people and places that involve our little corner of the world.  As a society, we are caught up in our own lives, our own blessings, our own headaches, somewhat selfishly unaware that there's much more to the world than what we see and experience on a daily basis.  Of course I acknowledge that many of you are very committed to a number of charities and volunteer organizations, but in general we live our lives primarily within our own self prescribed geographic walls without much thought to the world beyond those walls.  That's not  bad, it's just reality.  Sometimes we aren't even aware of what's happening in the next block, or next town.


That ignorance, well maybe that's too strong a word, that sense of unawareness became evident to me recently on one of our road trips when our GPS took us off the beaten path into a world, a time, a lifestyle, very different from our own.  It took me to a world, a beautiful world, where time has stood still and people were not caught up in the fast-paced, material society most of us live in.  That world was an Amish community, one of many it turns out, right here in New York State.  I've heard there were Amish in places beyond Lancaster, PA, but I'd never realized those places were so close to home.....so close to the fast-paced and modern world that New York state embodies.  Saying I was smitten is an understatement....I was totally head-over-heals in love with this community that is scattered throughout Montgomery County.  I don't know why, or what it was exactly that drew me in, but I loved it so much that we went back a few days later to capture as much of it as we could.
I did a little research and New York has the fastest growing Amish population and the 5th largest in the country.  Amish arrived in NY in around 1831 and made a significant presence in the 1970's. Their incentive for coming from Pennsylvania and Ohio was to acquire farm land and to avoid dissension from the Ohio settlement.  The Amish moved into the Mohawk Valley in the 1980's and this is the largest community in the area with five church districts.  Amish settlements have 25-35 families.  If the settlement grows to 40 families, they split and begin a new settlement.  

In the Amish culture, your road to heaven is paved with conformity.  The Amish live by a set of rules known as the Ordnung (a German word for order), a set of unwritten rules based in Scripture.  Since agreement with the Ordnung is voted on yearly by members of each congregation, there is some variation from church to church. The Ordnung addresses guidelines on everything from what clothes are acceptable, what color & length a woman's dress should be, education of children, use of technology, transportation and submission to the will of God, just to name a few.   Everyone knows the Amish favor transportation in a horse and buggy and decline the use of electricity, but a few other facts were news to me.  For instance, formal education for Amish children ends after 8th grade.  Children receive that education in home schools.  Married Amish men don't shave.  The Amish don't believe in any type of insurance or welfare and don't collect Social Security.  They don't believe in nursing homes and instead believe in taking care of their elderly at home.  If your home burns down, chances are your neighbors and members of your Amish community will help you rebuild it.  In fact recently when a barn burnt down in Montgomery County that was owned by non-Amish farmers, the local Amish offered their services to rebuild the barn for free.  All the farmer had to do was supply materials.  They don't believe in power tools or machinery so rebuilding a barn is definitely a labor of love and sweat equity.  

The Amish believe strongly in humility.  There are no mirrors in their homes and it is frowned upon to have their faces in photographs.  But....since the Amish children aren't baptized into the faith until their teen years, it is common to see them appear in films about the Amish.  Speaking of faith - the Amish have church services every other Sunday - not in a church, but in the home of one of it's members.  The service lasts about 3 hours and is usually followed by a lunch.  These services rotate from home to home.  Later, Sunday evenings, young adults in the settlement gather for Sunday night singing.  While singing is allowed, musical instruments are not.  Dating in the Amish culture begins around the age of 16, conforming to the Ordnung, and is for the purpose of finding your husband or wife.  Living together before marriage is forbidden as is divorce.  While some women deliver babies in hospitals, most deliver at home with mid-wives, likely due in part to their refusal to have health insurance.  The Amish believe in taking care of each other in all aspects of life and I suppose in a way, that's a pretty admirable way of life.  One thing we noticed about this particular community was that every house was painted white with a sky blue door.  No matter how much I researched online, I could find no explanation for this practice.  

Notice the Amish man loading his wagon...
Clearly something out of another century.  









Not the best quality, but a good depiction of life on the farm.

And a few photos from the same area, although not necessarily Amish owned land or farms........




Stone Arabia Lutheran Church
Proving the theory, "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence".





Nope......this doesn't look anything like the world most of us live in.  Yet, it's not that far from civilization and life sustained and made comfortable by all the modern conveniences.  I don't know about you, but I'd miss my car, my electricity, my devices and my creature comforts.   Next time your power goes out or your car is in the shop, stop for a moment and remind yourself not only of the days before these conveniences, but of the Amish neighbors not so very far away and the simple but hard-working life they lead.  Day after day they focus on God, work, and one another and somehow they seem grateful for their blessings.  Maybe we could learn a lesson from them.  

To learn more about the Amish culture and the Amish in NYS, use the links provided below.

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