Many years ago, I saw a movie at the People’s Place in Intercourse, PA. I can’t recall the exact name of the movie but it was a documentary about the Amish, narrated by a young woman. I saw the movie many time over the years before the People’s Place was no more. However, it was one line that has lingered with me and that was the voice of a young woman stating that “The Amish are not cookie cutter people.”
I’m a visual learner. When she said that, I could visualize God using a silver cookie cutter and pressing it into the freshly rolled dough. And I knew exactly what she meant.
The image didn’t sit well with me. I couldn’t imagine that God could be so uncreative as to create a steady stream of people, each one identical in nature and temperament. No, indeed, God would never create cookie cutter people and the Amish are no exception.
So it amazes me when people think that the Amish are all identical. When people learn that I write Amish fiction, they often ask me a lot of questions. Most people have an idea of what the Amish are but that idea is linked to no electricity, horse and buggies, and large families. Beyond that, they are unique as you and me.
Having spent so much time on Amish farms when I was renting from the Lapps and now, today, as I share a house with an Amish woman, I have been blessed with true, authentic experiences that I have been able to integrate into my writing.
One of the key ideas that I try to get across to my readers is that not all Amish people are the same. Some are funny, others are grouchy, still more are judgmental, and others are quiet and shy. It takes all kinds. Some drink, some might do drugs, most stay away from those things. Some parents are kind, some parents are cold, perhaps a few might not be too nice at all. It’s not too different from our own community, is it?
The only difference is that we, the outsiders, seem to hold them to a higher standard. All of the recent talk about Amish: Out of Order had made me realize that we are often amazed when people fall from that higher standard. It’s shocking to learn that Mose Gingrich was abused (at least that was the unspoken hint). That certainly makes it newsworthy and more interesting to watch than, say, some women sitting around quietly quilting a blanket or a mother hand washing her family’s laundry. Or watching the men milk sixty cows in the evening.
I cannot tell you how many emails I have gotten from readers who have asked me to write books about the Amish abuse, pointing to that particular episode of proof that all Amish do such terrible things. I am as horrified by abuse among the Amish as I am by abuse among the non-Amish…and I certainly have heard about plenty of that. However, I simply cannot write about something that I have not personally witnessed. I wouldn’t do that. It would feel like I was selling out.
I write because I love the art of telling stories, stories that I believe in and stories that I grow to love. I write about the Amish because I love the Amish people that I have met. They have accepted me into their inner circles, invited me into their homes, and shown me how delightfully peaceful their way of life can truly be. I would not be capable of writing something that spoke of anything less than my own admiration for their culture.
The one thing that has arisen from this show that has, indeed, helped the Amish is that people are asking questions and researching their way of life. That always makes me happy for I have always believed that there is a lot we can learn about ourselves if we study the Amish lifestyle and culture.