What We Learn from the Amish
I live in SW Missouri in the rolling hills of the Ozarks. Near me are a number of Amish communities. The state of Missouri says there are over 9,000 Amish from several sects living here at the present time. Their numbers are growing rapidly as Amish from other parts of the country are moving to Missouri.
One of the highlights of visitors touring our area of Missouri is seeing an Amish family in their plain clothes traveling slowly down the road in their old fashioned, horse-drawn buggies. There are often cars stopped in the middle of the road photographing Amish homes, farms, and people. They desire privacy and anonymity, but the tourists don’t respect their wishes. It’s quite common to see the tourists laughing and pointing at the Amish folk, and their lifestyle. It reminds me of the way that most of society views people who live alternative lives, or the prepper community. We often make fun of those who are different, or things we don’t understand.
These tourists tend to romanticize the Amish and believe that they live totally independent from the world around them and that their life consists of churning butter and taking warm, fragrant loaves of bread from their wood stove ovens. This is the picture usually shown in the highly popular Amish romance novels which are best sellers around the world.
Don’t Confuse Self-Sufficiency with Simple Living
Those of us who are their neighbors know that this is only one part of the true picture.
The Amish are dependent on the outside world in many areas. They use banks, the postal service, and local law enforcement. They buy food in local stores, have businesses making and selling furniture, and buy feed for their animals. They also buy and sell horses, cattle, and other types of livestock. They sell baked goods and eggs, vegetables, meat and jerky. They often set up stalls at local flea markets and farmer’s markets. It’s common to see them in the electronics section of our local warehouse stores watching the display televisions, and as a courtesy to them, our local “W” store plays Disney movies which they will stand and watch until they notice us “English” (their term for anyone not Amish) observing them. Then the husbands will issue a sharp command and they quickly move on.
Some of them work outside the home and since they don’t drive cars, hire drivers to take them to their workplaces. Homes built by the Amish are very desirable as they have the best workmanship. There is always a waiting list for their construction crews.
What the Amish Know
Then in what ways are they different? Besides the obvious ones, like the clothes they wear, most of them supply their families with much of their own vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy products and only buy food they cannot grow or make from their own land. They are very devout in their religious beliefs, and prefer to be a “closed” community. However, they do attend funerals of local farmers and other people they have built relationships with.
Long before survivalists or preppers, they preserved their food and kept a good supply on hand for times when it would be needed.
They operate their own schools and do not accept federal funds for them so they are free to teach their values to their children. The Amish believe that hard work is an essential quality, and teach this to their children at an early age. If only all Americans would pass this on their children, then most of today’s problems would go away! They do not bring electricity in their homes although some of the dairy farmers bring electricity to their barns, using solar power so as to avoid “government” lines as much as possible.
Their safety net when they suffer misfortune is not government welfare or food stamps but it’s neighbors helping neighbors which is one of their core beliefs.
To sum up, while it is a fantasy to believe the Amish are totally self-sufficient, what they have mastered is living simple, satisfying lives that mimic in many ways the self-reliance that our own great-grandparents practiced.
Those of us who are concerned about natural or man-made disasters see how the Amish would suffer less than the rest of us in such an event. An EMP attack? No bother. They aren’t dependent on electricity and were living off-grid long before the rest of us even heard of the concept.
Grocery stores running out of food in a natural disaster? They’ll just go to their food storage areas or cellars and get what they need. As these run out, they’ll be replaced by new crops and the chickens and other barnyard animals they raise.
Does that mean we should imitate them? Or even join them? Not at all! The first lesson we can learn from the Amish is that self-reliant doesn’t mean you’re totally self-sufficient. It doesn’t mean that you must move far away from everyone and become a hermit. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be part of a community of like-minded people.
Lessons We Can Learn
What it does mean is that we can develop their way of independent, confident thinking that used to be a hallmark of all Americans. These beliefs set them apart more than their clothes or buggies from the rest of us who are part of the “herd” and who are taught to blame others when something goes wrong. We have been led to believe that it’s the “government” who should take care of us when we’re having trouble.
It’s the Amish mindset we want to ingrain in our thinking so we too can move forward with courage and banish the fear that paralyzes us.
From an early age, they teach their children this way of thinking and the skills that are needed to provide for one’s self and one’s neighbor. Working with your hands and seeing the results is another lesson the children learn by watching the adults. Many of these parenting methods are ones we should practice. For a good introduction to these read Amish Values for your Family by Suzanne Woods Fisher.
Amish Folk Sayings and Proverbs
Some of their folksy, homespun, simple beliefs we can follow in our lives are:
• If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
• The trouble with doing nothing is that it’s too hard to tell when you’re finished.
• An ounce of patience is worth a pound of brains.
• Having more does not make you better.
• It takes a long time for an acorn to become an oak tree.
• Contentment is liking what you have.
I hope you’ll share this with your friends and family. Please let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below and if you’d like our newsletter, please subscribe. We value your privacy and will never share your e-mail address with anyone.