Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

20 October

What the Amish Can Teach Us, Part Two: “I Wish You Patience.”

by Jon Katz

Part Two In A Series: What The Amish Can Teach Us: Patience This series was inspired by the Amish Scholar Donald B. Kraybill, his new book is What The Amish Teach Us. I am indebted to him for his years of scholarship and thoughtfulness. He is perhaps the leading expert on Amish culture in the world.

If you spent any time with Moise or his family, one of the first things that stand out is a quiet, calming, steady patience. They are patient. They never rush, lose their tempers, fear delay, or fill up their heads with obligations and duties that cause stress and confusion.

If one thing stands out and reveals the vast chasm between their culture and ours, it is patience. Patience is at the center of our lives; patience and tolerance have been driven almost entirely out of English society.

In the landmark book The Amish,  the authors (there are three, including Kraybill) write about Gelassenheit, the cultural and emotional disposition at the heart of Amish life and culture. Gelassenheit is their universal and all-encompassing philosophy; it means letting go, stopping trying to figure everything out, and letting it alone.

I believe this is one of the things the Amish can teach us.

Gelessanheit is a meek spirit; in a sense, it isn’t about conquest, combination, or success.  The culture focus of Gellassenheit blends submission and humility into God’s will, personal meekness, and small-scale and personal organizations.

And patience, always patience.

In brief, says Kraybill, Gelassenheit is the Amish version of “let it be,” stop trying to change things that can’t be changed and accept life for what it is, good and bad. This philosophy is bred into the Amish soul and governs perceptions, emotions, behavior, organizational structure, and even aspects of building and architecture.

It explains everything.

The dimensions of Gelalssenheit include personality (reserved, modest, calm, quiet), values (submission, obedience, humility, simplicity). Symbols (dress, horses, carriages, dialect), structure (small, informal, local, decentralized), and rituals (kneeling, foot-washing, confession, shunning.

At the center of Gellessanheit, one of the most striking traits in the Amish faith is patience, avoidance of conflict, and the quite visible absence of impatience, one of the enduring hallmarks of English life and culture. Moise’s boots have had holes in them for five or six years. He is in no rush to get new ones.

In any friendship, disagreements are inevitable. When Moise and I have a conflict,  he stops and suggests it isn’t the right time to work out. He doesn’t care if this takes six months or a year, he doesn’t fight about things, or she has any need to resolve things quickly.

In many ways, Amish life is about being patient and plain in a frantic and frantic world. The Amish say that the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. Kraybill writes that patience guides the Amish journey.

I know that patience is an essential part of every Sunday service (I’ve been invited to one.) The services have very slow hymns that go on and on.

Moise’s son John told me that the importance of horses is that they set the pace for life and slow everything down. “We can’t rush, ” he told me. “We have no way of doing it.” Horse rides, he said, are always slow and contemplative.

There is no equivalent of hopping into a car and rushing off to pick something up at the market or hardware store in Amish life, something Maria and I do four or five times a day.

We wait for very little. If we want something, I get onto Amazon or rush off to the supermarket. Patience is not something I am asked to practice often; our society is all about rushing and moving quickly to get things done. Most of the time, we have to think about money, let alone aging and health care.

For the Amish, none of these are problems.

The horses, in a sense, are the enforcers of patience. I often buy things for the Miller family online. They have absolutely no trouble waiting weeks or months for something I would try to get immediately. The Amish are not in a hurry.  They ride in open-window, gadget-free buggies so they can see and admire the countryside and wave to friends and neighbors along the way.

Before you harness a big horse and buggy, you have to think about it and set off down a heavily trafficked road. There are no clocks in the Miller house; they don’t set their clocks ahead an hour each spring or back an hour each fall, as the English do. They favor what they call “slow time,” God’s time, regulated by the rising and setting of the sun and the changing of seasons.

This appears antiquated and puzzling to outsiders, but it supports the idea of calm and patience, a simple life lived with thoughtfulness and discernment. Most of the things I rush to do are either not essential and can wait. But I’m not sure I know the difference any longer. Since the Amish need and acquire very few things, that eliminates much of the rushing around that afflicts the English.

Amish people speak openly about their resistance to the breakneck speed of hypermodernity, the intoxicating, reckless acceleration of and acceleration of life in the world outside.

They fiercely resist the pace of English life. They are always patient, slowly making their way through our dangerous world. You never see them hurrying or rushing frantically anywhere. I’ve never seen an Amish person in crisis and drama.

Yesterday, visiting the Amish, Moise and Barbara were laughing about a mishap where one of their children accidentally set her wagon on fire and also set fire to a nearby pile of water, garbage, and rubber. The stench could be smelled for hours and hours.

The calm way they told the story, which would have triggered a massive crisis and drama almost surely involving police, fire companies, and bystanders in many of the places I’ve lived, struck me. They were completely patient with their child.

It was just no big deal. It was just life.

There were no recriminations, lectures, dramatic tales to be told. It was just life, something that happens to children. “She’ll learn from it, ” said Moise after he told the story.

Amish lives are filled with slowdowns – like having no electricity. At dusk, their house is dark, lit only by kerosene candles; there is a calm peacefulness about it. You can’t scramble to do a lot of things in the dark. Being quiet is a natural choice.

There are significant slowdowns – horses, no Internet, no news, no cars.

They get a  lot done, but they never seem to worry about getting a lot done. It’s just the way they live. Moise always tells me he can slow down in winter; he can now work at his own pace, which is relentless but never rushed.

The three-hour Amish Church service is another slowdown and a big one. There are no preached fixes for life’s problems in these services; there is no drive-thru there, no instant gospel of prosperity, no sermons, and wisdom.

Amish services are slow and long. Everyone sits quietly, and with enduring patience, the service is an incubator of tolerance.

The idea, wrote Kraybill, is worship that evokes “a medical monastery and reminds the faithful that they are pilgrims plodding through a high-speed world that’s not their final home.”

Amish worship is also meant to be a training ground for children to understand patience and practice it.  There are no classes for children during services and no rooms to run off to while the adults pray. For hours, small children sit quietly on wooden benches or in a parent’s lap. Halfway through the service, a small plate of crackers is circulated as a snack for children.

Mostly, they sleep quietly. They are free to occupy themselves with simple toys – small dolls, a handkerchief, or tiny bits of fabric or paper. In church, children learn a message that is at the heart of the Amish faith and identify patience and quiet.

Since they have been immersed in the practice of patience since infancy, they bring this understanding into their entire lives. Long before they are teens, they learn not to rush to the front of the food line, to wait for their turn. Amish children learn by necessity to wait for the bathroom (there is only one in Amish homes); they must wait for a slice of pie or cake or for a chance to talk.

Every day of their lives, they learn the lessons of patient waiting.

Little Sarah desperately needs a boot; hers has a massive hole in the side. Her mother asked me to help find a boot for her, and I know Sarah is very eager to have one. Once, weeks ago, she asked me if I was getting her a boot. I said it was, but it would take time. The Amish don’t just wear any shoes. I just found one for her yesterday.

In that time, she has never once asked me if I had found a boot or when it might arrive. She is patient.

Patience is very much evident in my friendship with Moise. When faced with a problem, his default position is to go quiet, wait, and pray; he doesn’t seek quick or urgent fixes. He won’t argue, attack my position, or defend his.

The world slows. When Moise has a conflict with an inspector or local authority, there is no fight. They might take years to work it out, but they always do.

I’ve come to understand that demanding an immediate solution signals a lack of trust in God. Patience, for the Amish, writes Kraybill, “is an enduring way of respecting each other and thoughtfully pondering options before rushing into judgments.”

Moise and I have been talking about better illumination for the horse buggies ever since we met. We still talk about it from time to time; Moise is still thinking about it.  Decisions like that are to be made patiently and thoughtfully.

This patience is in stunning contrast to the way English society works.  For the Amish and the Millers, patience is a personal virtue, a social practice, and spiritual teaching. It’s also a way of living that allows time for deliberation and reflection.

Without ever meaning to, Moise taught me to be patient and thoughtful about my new apnea mask. It is not a drama or a crisis; it is just something I have to thoughtfully and patiently work through.

The Millers and my friendship with them are teaching me – I am a notoriously impulsive and impatient person – to slow down. Some of the best things in life – slow and carefully cooked food, emotional healing, peace of mind, forgiveness, love, and self-renewal – don’t come quickly or easily. They require time and patience.

This is something it has taken me a lifetime to learn, and I wonder if the Amish children know it already. They seem very patient and calm to me. There is never any customer service for them to call. They have to figure things out for themselves.

There are many Amish traits and sayings, many signs of Gelessanheit.

One thing that sticks in my mind is the Amish always tell bereaved families when someone they love dies: “I Wish You Patience.”

20 October

Visiting With Tina, Yakking With Moise, Soda And Ice Cream

by Jon Katz

There was no roaring concrete machine today, so Tina took up position on the back of a wagon carrying wood for Miller’s new home. I saw down on edge, and Tina crawled into my lap. We watched the workers together.

The children all kid me about how much I love Tina. I see they love teasing me. I will give it back.

She was incredibly affectionate today; we sat together for ten minutes or so, and then she got up when Moise came to sit next to me, eat his ice cream, and talk about the construction he is planning and the farms he might like to buy one day.

Moise is always thinking down the road. “I’ve got 13 children,” he said, “I’d like to find homes for them all around here.”

During construction periods, I try to come up every afternoon to see what’s going on and monitor the progress. Moise and his sons are gracious about explaining everything they are doing to me, and I am learning a great deal about construction.

I am always amazed at how much they all know and have learned just through the process of building things all of their lives. On hot days, I try to bring ice cream, ice cubes (to cool the ice cream), and soda. They love Root Beer and Mountain Dew; both give them energy.

They love anything with sugar in it.

My boot program is finally on track. I brought Moise his size ten rubber boots, and he said they fit perfectly, which is the equivalent of raving about them for some people. In the next two days, Little Sarah (size 4) and Barbar (size 7)6 will get their boots.

I am very happy that everyone in the family who needs boots will have them shortly. If they asked for them, they pay me back. If it was my idea, I pay for the boots.

I’m still bartering with them for necklaces and bracelets to bring to the Bishop Maginn High School students and Mansion residents who love them.

Moise loves to joke that the best way to get into a boot is to crawl through a hole. Everybody laughs.

I’m bringing two other boots to a second Amish family a few miles away; I’m told they need them.

Moise sat and ate his ice cream and drank his Mountain Dew.

Foundations are brutish, hard work. I can see his back is hurting him, but I didn’t ask him about it. I don’t want to be his Mother. We are finding time again together to talk about things, his life and mine.

I enjoy it. I told him I’ll be gone tomorrow to get my bandages out; I’d check in again later in the week. His mind is firmly entrenched in his foundation.

When I left, Tina was snoring next to the pile of lumber.  Two of the toddler grandchildren came up to her and tried to put a leash on her. It didn’t go well. Eventually, Tina just grabbed it from them, ran off, and dropped it in the woods.

I love that dog. But I do know she really isn’t the dog for me. Zinnia, my Sweet Queen, follows me everywhere and lies by my feet whenever I write. I can’t imagine Tina doing that.

20 October

Recovery Journal: Man Meets Machine: A CCap Sleep Apnea Mask Challenges Me, Teaches Me To Take Responsibility. I Did.

by Jon Katz

Photo By Jon Katz, Graphic Treatment by Maria Wulf

When it comes to healing, I often think the worst enemy is us, and the attitude we bring to our health.

Yesterday I got a powerful reminder to look inward when it comes to my health and not just make phone calls to other people asking for solutions.

I never expected to have a meaningful spiritual experience with a sleep apnea hose and mouth mask. And with a digital box, I call “my machine.” The box is the wizard in all of this, it calls the shots.

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea a few weeks ago, I got my mask and air machine earlier this week. After two days, I had to switch to a bigger mask, one that covered my nose and mouth.

I had some trouble with this new mask. In the middle of the night, the air pumped into the mask to help me breathe got strong and cold and loud. It lifted the mask a bit off my face, breaking the seal that kept the air where it belonged.

It was too strong. It was cold. It was loud.

I called my Customer Success counselor in the morning and we had a talk about it.

He wasn’t sure what was happening. Then another counselor called me and we had a talk that shook me up, made me think, and taught me an important lesson about health, spirituality, and responsibility.

We are so used to calling people and looking elsewhere for answers and blame, we sometimes forget that we can and should make our own decisions and take responsibility for our lives.

For me, healing is half and half, one half good doctors, the other half me. Neither one of us can do it alone, or should. I don’t blame them when things don’t develop precisely as I would like. When it works, we did it together, When it fails, we failed together.

I explained to Amy what was happening. She was very nice and also careful. She seemed concerned that I might blow up and scrap the whole project. I reassured her that I thought the mask was doing me good, I wasn’t looking to abandon it, I was looking for the people who sold it to me to push some buttons somewhere and fix it.

Amy was patient and direct.

The reason the mask was blowing out after a while, she said, was because it was trying to help me breathe.

The doctor told me my heart is stopping about 80 times an hour during the night, waking me up each time. The machine is trying to provide the air and the oxygen that my body isn’t producing. This could improve my life greatly, even save it.

This shocked me, it never occurred to me that the machine was doing its job, trying to help. I just assumed it was broken because it wasn’t working the way I wanted.

I thought the machine must be malfunctioning.

But I’m the one that is malfunctioning, the machine is fine, it’s just trying to help.

The machine is set to be mild when pumping the air at first. It was set to be static for four minutes, and then it would react to my breathing, the less I breathed, the more the air, the more I breathed, the less.

It starts at level 4.1 and goes up to 10 or 12. The higher it goes, the harder time I’m having breathing properly, thus  the stronger the air pressure. It is strong, it can blow right through the sealed mask and set off an alarm on the breathing machine.

But the idea behind the machines is that it starts – “ramps up” as they put it, slowly long enough for the patient to fall asleep. Then as it gets louder, quicker, and more powerful, the patient is supposed to be asleep.

This was a kind of spiritual revelation to me. The machine was doing its job, trying to help me breathe. It wasn’t malfunctioning, that was me.

Now I  had to do my job, the rest was my responsibility, not the mask. Amy approved. “I admire your attitude,” she said, “you just have to keep at it, figure out what works for you. You will be grateful you figured it out.”  I am already.

Amy’s advice struck me as very true. Last night, the machine started its harder blowing an hour or so after I went to sleep,  and I heard a strong noise from the breathing tube. Okay, I thought, the machine is telling me I’m not breathing strongly enough. I’m going to blow right back.  We’re going to communicate.

 

  

 

I took deep breaths, from the mouth and the nose. Every time the machine pumped a blast of air at me, I blew back, this went on for five or ten minutes. Then I watched the monitor,  I saw the number was declining, back down to seven, six, five, and then four. The mask sealed up. The machine got quiet.

The air stopped puffing heavily. I went back to sleep and slept for four hours.

I’ve also figured out how to adjust the mask when air leaks out, I know how to move the strap. There is nothing wrong with my machine.

“Let’s do this,” I said to the machine, keenly aware I was talking to a machine at 3 a.m. softly enough so that I wouldn’t wake my wife up.

Back and forth we went, the machine blowing on me, me blowing back, opening my mouth as well as my nose when the going got brought. It worked.

Amy was right. The machine is doing what it’s supposed to do. My turn. Somewhere in the midst of all this blowing, I fell asleep, just as I was meant to do.

When I woke up the monitor told me I had slept for 7.1 hours, which might be a lifetime record. I feel good and strong this morning, different than I have felt for a very long time.

The machine and I worked it out. It helped me, I helped it, and we did the job together.

Amy was right. I did figure it out myself. When the machine leaks air a bit, I pull on a strap and it tightens.

If I learn to breathe strongly when necessary, the machine is happy to back down. If I’m not breathing correctly, it will step in. There is nothing wrong with the machine. I’m the one with sleep apnea. Once I fall asleep, I don’t care what the machine is doing.

What’s the lesson for me? Don’t always look to doctors and specialists to tell me how I am and what I should do.  Don’t pick up the phone so fast, try and take a deep breath and think. As much as I respect my machine, it is not smarter than me.T

Ultimately, my health is my responsibility. The doctors have no idea how I will react to puffing air in the night.

I know now that if I work at understanding this machine, and experimenting with different ways to respond to it, I will figure it out. And I did.

I feel sometimes that we are so disconnected from our bodies and our spirituality that we – or should I say me – just leave it to others to solve the problems of our health.

This summer has awakened me to my own responsibilities. The doctors and nurses are helpers and supporters, they are not miracle makers who can solve all of their problems with their pills and machines. They can prescribe all the insulin they want but if I don’t do my carbohydrate homework every day, things can go South.

At some point, I just have to stand up and say this is your part and this is mine, and I’m responsible for mine.

The back and forth with the thing I call “the machine” was very spiritual to me, a test of wills in a way, but also a partnership. I love that we worked it out together.

Together we managed to figure out the best night of sleep in my life that I can remember. There is surely a lesson there.

And I finally get a good night’s sleep, maybe I can do this other nights.

A machine taught me a good lesson. I heard it and felt it.

20 October

Me And Flo Celebrate The Last Bouquet of 2021

by Jon Katz

Just after lunch, I went out to the back porch to cut the last bouquet of 2021 for my Zinnia garden, the first garden I’ve ever planted by myself.

It was a great learning experience and a great success, the little raised garden bet cranked out nearly 40 bouquets. I’ve added another bed, and next summer I have promised myself to be a Johnny Flowerseed, bringing bouquets with me wherever I go, spreading color and light out into the world.

Flow and I pay tribute to the last bouquet in an Amish jam bottle. No more zinnias this year from this garden.

19 October

What The Amish Can Teach Us: Part One – Family Is Everything

by Jon Katz

My mission has changed since I began the blog more than a decade ago.

It has always been the story of a life, but since 2016, it has also been an effort to offer something hopeful and uplifting to worried, discouraged, and angry people.

Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don’t, but I always try to tell the truth.

As is evident, I have been drawn to the story of the Amish, as I try to describe it through the lives of one family, my new neighbors, and friends, the Millers.

This interests some people and angers others.

I’ve been called a pedophile, an obsessive, weak, creepy, invasive, pathetic, love-starved, and intrusive man, so desperate for affection that he pesters and harasses a quiet and shy family that wants to be left alone.

The truth is more straightforward, at least to me. I am hungry to understand the Amish and their extraordinary lifestyle and seek all the time to answer the same question: what can the Amish teach us?

Try as I might, I am not blind to the deteriorating state of the country and the world beyond.

Yet, I have neighbors and friends who are the polar opposite of us, living peacefully in love, decent, humility, family, faith, and community. How do they do it, and what can we learn from it?

I thank the family for respecting what I am doing and tolerating, even love me.

They are, as Maria says, my other family, and I am grateful for them every day. But I never take my eye off the ball: what can they teach us, what can we take from them?

My writing has been greatly aided by the work of Donald B. Kraybill, to whom I am indebted.

Kraybill is the nation’s leading and most respected scholar of the Amish and their lives and history. He is a distinguished professor and senior fellow emeritus in the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College.

He is the co-author of The Amish and six other books. His new book is What The Amish Teach Us and it inspired me to take on the same subject, as I have done a few times before.

It was manna from heaven for members of this fascinating community to land just a few feet away from me, a writer,  and become my neighbors.

They have opened their hearts and home to me, and I am eternally grateful. I will not waste this opportunity to learn about them and pass on what I know. Nasty e-mails will certainly not trouble me or slow me down.

I can’t whitewash the truth beyond my life. The reason the Amish are so fascinating to me is that they seem to have sidestepped or avoided most, if not all, of the mistakes and traumas and controversies that plague the lives of the “English,” as they call us.

In a time when civil discourse is raw and coarse,” writes Kraybill, “when social discord and deceptions disturb us, when the scourge of political corruption and mass shootings anger us when technology threatens to overwhelm us when violence is our default for solving conflicts when loneliness is the norm when addiction and suicide rates soar, and in days when our social fabric seems torn asunder – our Amish friends have much to teach us.

Yes, they do. When I drive up to the door of the Miller’s temporary home on the top of a hill, I enter a different world.

No raw discourse, no violence, poverty, homelessness, no overwhelming technology, addiction or soaring suicide rates, no social fabric torn asunder.

On the country, this is a cohesive, supportive and thriving community, day by day, the very opposite of the world they swore to avoid.

This will be a series I write from time to time, and I’m starting with the Amish idea of family. I went to the Miller home early the other day, I had to bring them pie pans and donut boxes – I help them buy supplies online, where they can’t go.

Barbara and Moise and their daughters were busy writing letters, as they often are.

I asked them what was going on, and they said they were writing cards to each of their eighteen grandchildren, it is important to them that no birthday go forgotten.

“They all need to be mailed on different days,” Barbara said, “we don’t want to miss anyone.”

They do the same to their 13 children (one died young).

Amish life, and their writings, sermons, and preaching all praise the value of family.

Family is what life is about for my neighbors. Marriage begins with starting a family raising children for as long as possible, and children, who will, in turn, produce more children.

“Our children are the crop we can take along to heaven,” wrote on Amish father.

Amish families are huge, they include in-laws, grandchildren, step-parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

Moise knows a family that numbers four hundred people.

Amish families have no babysitters. They have no need to hire help.

When people are busy or travel, they just drop their children off at some family member’s house, the favor is always returned.

Although some family members live out of state, most live or move within a 20-mile radius of one another, the distance is considered the limits of normal horse buggies and the boundaries of the church districts.

People often ask me if Amish teenagers miss English-style socializing, but they are constantly socializing. The Amish national pastime is hopping into a horse buggy and going to socialize with other Amish friends and family.

Every Amish teenage girl I know has a boyfriend, and when they decide to get married – it is their choice when – there is no shortage of men they know to choose from.

The church is a primary additional source of socializing and meeting everyone in their community, no matter the age.

The size of Amish families originates from the biblical command to “be fruitful” and multiply (Genesis 1:28). This command makes it unthinkable not to marry or to marry and remain childless.

Family living is structured to prepare children for collective living. Children learn early on that they are not special among their brothers and sisters  – while English children are taught constantly that they are special.

The Amish promote the collective unit, the English the individual.

Family life does not revolve around individual children, but about the family as a holistic whole. Small children need to find ways to amuse themselves, crying gets them little more than a safety check.

No one is singled out.

No one is more special than any other.

The children are all treated equally, even though the boys will ultimately be more powerful than the girls.

They all attend school until the eighth grade, they all give any money they earn to their parents until they are 21 when they can keep what they earn and still live at home if they wish.

In a patriarchy, the males are always seen as more powerful, and perhaps more important. This comes in adolescence, not early childhood.

But the Amish women I know are quite powerful in their families and communities. They have important work, work that is central to the well-being of the family and the larger community.

The men cannot come close to doing it alone.

Children are never rewarded for crying or whining or being competitive. They are not praised for doing well, that is expected of them.

They do not ever go on Facebook or Twitter. It is never acceptable to be cruel or boast. Any kind of violence is forbidden.

They are not cruel to their siblings or to other children, which would bring instant concern and correction. They are never shouted at, bullied, or threatened with punishment.

Humility is worshipped, at home and in church.

Children are encouraged to speak with adults and to listen to them.

I am startled by the Miller children’s interest in me and my life. Everyone one of the Miller children has asked about my foot, and whether it hurts, and will it be better. I have friends decades old who have never mentioned it.

At meals, children are encouraged to speak their minds, talk honestly about any concerns, disagree with patriarchal decisions.

But there is little or no argument within the Miller family. There is nothing to argue about – parents, then older children in order of age have full authority and are obeyed. Bickering and brooding are almost unheard of.

Each child is given work to do at an early age – unthinkable for most English families – and works hard all day until dinner, which comes at dusk, or whenever it gets dark. Then, the home is lit with kerosene candles.

Children are taught to never call attention to themselves, it might harm their siblings.

Dusk is time for the family to get together – parents on one end, older brothers on the other, girls in between.

There is silent prayer before all meals, and sometimes, hymns are sung together as a family. Each child talks about their day. Family is a kind of powerful web in an Amish household, everyone’s life is intertwined.

But there is nothing robotic about the children, they don’t speak or think in unison, they are all different, with different identities, passions, and humor.

Somehow, in the midst of all this connectivity, they find a way to find themselves and be themselves. I never confuse one with another, each one is unique and distinctive.

When Leena and Fanny came to the house today, I went to the Miller farm to drop something off.

Every single member of the family came up to me and asked how the skirting was going, how the girls were doing, how clean was the wool getting.

They all seemed thrilled that the girls were doing this work on our farm, they were interested in every detail, they were very happy for their sisters.

No Amish child or family is ever alone when there is trouble – families and friends come running.

When somebody dies, Amish women and men descend from all over to help with chores, harvest the crops, tend to the animals, cook, and clean. The meaning of family is very real and very close.

Jacob, Moise’s brother in law told me a story about an Amish friend who lost a twenty-year-old son in a snowmobile accident out West, more than two thousand miles from the Pennsylvania farm where he was born.

On the first Sunday after the funeral, he said, thirty-two families visited to offer support and share their grief, and an average of twenty-five Amish visitors came by over the new two weeks every day.

The family, he said, received over six hundred sympathy cards from church members near and far.

I am told this kind of support is automatic and expected after death – especially an unexpected one of a young person.

“This kind of response,” wrote Kraybill, “is the abundant love that young people know they will miss if they leave the Amish faith. They know that family and friends will not only show up when tragedy hits but will hang in for the long haul, even assisting over the years.”

I can see with my own eyes that this kind of care and love touches deep and very primal instincts, especially in a wider world that seems more disconnected and angry and disconnected than ever.

People are not reaching out to one another in the English world, they are tearing each other to pieces, online and in their civic and common gatherings.

Unlike the Amish, there is no common or unified moral structure to keep order and help government function or faith prevail.

There is almost none of this trauma in the Amish world, and these close family ties are considered a major reason.

This is the love, writes Kraybill, that makes it so hard for young people, and most adults, to turn their back and walk away forever from a community – despite so many shortcomings and squabbles –  that will care for them regardless.

The Amish are not saints, they are human like the rest of us. I’ve met good ones and not-so-good ones.

But they have built and nourished caring and powerful systems of love and support that transcend conflict and make it irrelevant when there is trouble, pain, or loss. They seem able to let go of conflict, while we are becoming addicted to it.

The Amish are a successful, united seemingly content community.

The very things that most English are terrified of – running out of money, skyrocketing health costs, getting sued, being alone, getting fired or laid off,  poverty in old age – just do not exist in the Amish world.

For all the American whining and fear of socialism, the Amish seem to practice it rather than preach it. They just don’t talk about it, and our politicians don’t seem to have noticed.

This ever-lasting love and deep support evoke the deepest kind of tribal longing, says Kraybill, “a longing that keeps most of the wayward-leaning souls at home.”

Some would say this is brainwashing. I disagree. People get a lot back from being Amish.

What do we take from this?

People need to be supported and feel supported.

The Amish realized hundreds of years ago that deep family and community connections and concern keep all of the yearning souls at home, eager to bring more children into the world.

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