Lessons I Learn While Visiting The Amish

Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Life isn't always as it appears.

Wow....it's been a long time, even longer than I thought.  Time sure races by when we're busy keeping up.  Since I was here last, it seems winter has stepped aside and spring has begun to give us glimpses of what's to come.  The snow in our yard is finally melted, the air is slowly beginning to lessen it's winter bite and the days are getting brighter and longer.  All good signs, right?  I haven't spoken with anyone who isn't ready to say goodbye to winter.  I've had this post planned for a while now, waiting for the time to sit and write and edit photos but 'things' have crept their way into my free time.  Most of those are good things...a daughter's birthday, a hubby birthday, valentines day, sunny days and road trips and then my mom spent the last five days in the hospital.  Fortunately, she was able to go home yesterday and hopefully she'll be back to her feisty self soon.  Even with all this, I've been thinking about this post and want to share it and it's snowy photos before no one wants to see them.

They say that 'Life happens while we're busy making plans' and boy, is that ever true?!?!?  You can probably all attest to that.  I know I can.  The washing machine never dies when the laundry is all clean, the car never breaks down when you have nowhere to be, crisis doesn't happen when your calendar is clear of commitments.  Maybe it's a symptom of Murphy's Law.  Mom's 5-day hospital stay provided me with some opportunity to ponder.....there's plenty of 'sit around and wait' time in hospitals.  It didn't take much effort to find a connection between my thoughts and the photos from our recent ride to Amish country.  Let's see if I can join them into something cohesive.

There are many things I love about visiting the Amish communities in Fulton and Montgomery Counties.  Naturally the beautiful, expansive landscape is near the top of the list.  Literally you can see for miles and miles and that view is just as breathtaking in the snow-covered winter as it is in the green of summer or the golden hues of autumn.  I love the barns that dot the landscape, some Amish, some not but most of them old, wooden barns, not the newer, modern metal-type built today.  I love seeing the horse and buggies, often driven by young kids, clopping along the country roads.  I love seeing the Amish at work, always in their traditional garb - navy or black, men in straw, brimmed hats, little boys in black wool hats, girls in bonnets - all of them intent on their tasks.  Children stop, from their play or chores, to wave at us passing by, inquisitive yet reserved.  What I might love most is how time spent in this place - far from the hustle and bustle of life as we live it, settles my mind, calms my anxious thoughts, reminds me of a simpler time, a simpler life, and for a moment I'm transported away from the crazy chaos of the world today.

As we pass farm after Amish farm, sometimes even compounds, I gaze at their estates and ponder their lives - uncomplicated by electronics, television and social media.  I imagine how lovely and simple their lives must be, focusing on their families and the families in their Amish community - not influenced by the media, politics and vices.  On the surface when we look at their world, it appears simple and easy and stress free.  In reality, their lives are anything but easy nor stress free - but the way they deal with that is vastly different from how we handle our lives.   The Amish spend their lives working, the old fashioned way, without power tools or motor vehicles.  They produce their own food, grown or raised on their own land.  Even the little children partake in chores.  Amish women don't have housekeepers.  They beat their own rugs, hang their clothes on clotheslines across their porch and sometimes on lines that go on for yards, sometimes all the way to other buildings.  They rise with the sun and go to sleep when the sun sets.  Their lives, which appear simple and uncomplicated to the average passerby, are totally opposite of the relaxed and stress-free mood that washes over me as we drive through these communities.  I am reminded again - things aren't always as they appear.  Often things are not at all as they appear.

We had the nicest Culligan serviceman come today to service our water softener.  He was young and friendly, carefree in nature.  We chatted briefly about life and retirement and he shared that what money he would like to allocate to retirement savings was needed for medical supplies.  He has had diabetes since he was 7.  Behind his fresh face and cheerful disposition lived a young man living a daily struggle with keeping healthy all while struggling to afford the medicine and supplies needed just to stay alive, all while doing a daily juggling act to balance food, insulin and exercise.  He's carrying a lifelong, daily burden that isn't visible or understood by anyone but him - and maybe his mom.  I was reminded of a myth that became all too familiar when our daughter was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes at ten months of age.....just because you 'look' healthy, doesn't necessarily mean you disease free.  It's frustrating when people look at her and other folks living with an invisible disease and assume all is well with them - because they 'look' so healthy.  The same is true for people with fibromyalgia, or arthritis or any other chronic, but hidden condition.  Things aren't what they appear.  My mom is the poster child for this ....at nearly 88, she looks 75, and acts 65, but beneath the shiny, positive exterior she is sporting a permanently broken arm, chronic anemia, fibromyalgia, arthritis and a revolving, run of the mill assortment of daily aches and pains experienced by every octogenarian.

Often we look at people, see their social media, and make judgments on their lives.  We see what people show us and make assumptions about them.  We assume they're well off, or they've been left money, that they've never suffered a hardship, lost a job, struggled to get out of bed and face life.   We look at what we see, we believe what we've heard, we think we know.....all the while not knowing what might really be behind the smile, the facade, the image people portray.  People sometimes look at my life - an only child, two beautiful daughters, a wonderful husband, a house, retired young and make assumptions.  Oh, you have it made.  What a charmed life you have!  And they're absolutely right, we are extremely blessed on so very many levels.  But just like all of you, we've had our struggles, our ups and downs, times that challenged us and tested our faith.  That's everyone's truth, not just ours.  No one's life is exactly as it seems and it isn't until we realize that, until we stop making assumptions about people that we can find compassion and understanding.  We need to stop looking at Facebook and Instagram judging or condemning.  We need to remember we are seeing a single page of one or two chapters, not the entire novel.  Behind every happy post, every smiling selfie....a real, living human being with real life challenges is working hard, just like you, making ends meet, trying to live a balanced life amidst their personal struggles.  There is always more to a book than the cover, there's always more to the story than 'I'm fine', there's always struggle before success and there's always hurts beneath a smiling person's surface - even if that hurt is currently far below the surface.

So, do what you must to escape the realities of today but when you do, wherever that journey takes you, remember that while the grass outside of your sun scorched world seems greener, it too has it's days of drought and suffering.  The person wearing the effortless smile might just be the person who has worked the hardest to find it, and behind it might be a mountain of suffering or grief.  Keep an open mind and let your heart seek the truth.  And the next time you need a little unwinding, a little escape from your personal reality.....take a ride to Amish country and get back to basics.

Thanks for reading.  I hope you'll come back soon for more Life As I See It.  Don't forget to share this post with someone you know might relate.  You can also subscribe to receive every new post in your email.  Check out my other stories about the New York Amish and other philosophical looks at life under Food For Thought ......all in my blog Directory.  

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