Tuesday, September 18, 2012
A Special Photo.......
First of all, a disclaimer:
I did not take this photo.
This picture looks like a postcard to me, one of those too-perfect images you see for sale. Or one of those things you find in a picture frame that you buy for a gift.
I feel terribly guilty about posting this photo on my blog.
These are three little Amish girls who were selling cookies outside the farm where we browsed for quilts and other crafts. (It's where I bought my rug.) I saw them with my own eyes and spoke to them, so they are very real. (Yes, I bought some cookies I didn't need, only because I didn't think they would sell me one of the children.)
Amish people do not like to be photographed. They typically will allow photos taken from a distance, or from their backs, but not anything that shows their faces. They consider photographs to be graven images, and besides they do not like to attract attention to themselves. I didn't take the photo, but am I just as guilty (tacky?) for publishing it? I DID resist the temptation to post it on Facebook.
I was enthralled by these little girls. The perfection of their skin, the austerity of their hairstyles, the innocence of their smiles. One of the leaders of our tour took this photo, and she sent each of us a CD of images. I keep going back to this one again and again. Is it possible to be slightly in love with three little girls whose names I don't even know?
I learned a lot about the Amish in our brief stay there. I previously thought they had very little contact with the "English" (that's anyone who isn't Amish, so for just a couple of days I considered myself English), but that isn't the case. They do business with the English (obviously), and they have no qualms about visiting English doctors or using English hospitals. They are very friendly, at least the ones with whom we came in contact, and the Riehls, the family with whom we had dinner, demonstrated a marvelous sense of humor.
The Amish have their own schools, even though they pay school taxes in their respective communities. We saw some Amish children on their way to school, some riding the push-cycles I showed you yesterday, but many of them walking. Some of them were barefoot, and our guide said they prefer to go barefoot as long as possible. Such a tiny detail, but it was fascinating to see them all dressed up in their Amish clothing but barefoot.
The Amish do not believe in insurance; they take care of each other. In the case of disaster or catastrophe (major illness, barn fire, etc.), the Amish band together and take care of the injured party. They have huge sales, they come together to build a new barn themselves, whatever it takes to make life right again for whoever has experienced hardship. Our tour guide said in 2006, when the Amish school shooting took place (only about 7 miles from where we were), members of the Amish community were astounded at the outpouring of love and support from people all over the world. They apparently didn't think the rest of the world "cared about them."
The Amish do not operate automobiles (although it is permissible if an Amish person works for someone outside the faith and operating an automobile is part of the normal duties of the job), but they aren't AGAINST autos. They will accept a ride from an English person with a car if necessary, and some of them have a joint phone used by several farms, though it won't be INSIDE the house.
My favorite expression used to describe the Amish ways is that they "want to be IN this world, but not OF this world." I found myself comparing my own desires and ambitions with theirs, and I didn't think I looked favorable in comparison.
I even like the Amish view of education. They send their children to school through about the eighth grade (attending the same number of days required by public schools), making sure the youngsters can read and write. After that point, they are taught a vocation. The attitude is that if a person can read and WANTS to gain knowledge, he or she can acquire it at the local library. I was aghast at first, but then I decided that approach makes a lot more sense than imprisoning teenagers in their desks and attempting to force-feed them information and knowledge they may never use. Or need. (I think I hear the English Teachers United folks knocking on my door, demanding I surrender my membership card.)
I found the Amish people and their ways simply beautiful. If only I could be Amish with the Internet.