It’s been almost twenty-five years since I’ve been good friends with several Amish families. I noticed that as I get older, I seemed to get accepted even more into their inner circles. I’ve been to canning frolics, quilting bees, church services, family picnics, birthday parties…you name it.
In all that time, I have never seen an Amish person cry. This fact never dawned on me until this year when I found myself comforting two very different Amish woman.
What is it about crying that just tugs at the heart? Whenever someone cries, I feel their pain. And, usually, I start to cry with them. That’s just part of who I am. I’m also a touchy feely person (yes, one of those people). I hug a lot, too. If you’re happy, I’m happy and want to hug you in joy. If you’re sad, I feel your sorrow and think that hugs help. I know that when I’m sad, there’s nothing like a hug from my husband or mother or good friends. Crying on someone’s shoulder just seems to help.
It also never dawned on me that Amish aren’t touchy feely people nor are they big into comfort hugging. I found that out the hard way. Two month ago, when Anna broke down in tears, confiding in me that she had lost a baby son just two years before, I did the natural thing: I hugged her. Today, when Katie cried over Anna’s illness and how scared she was to lose her dear one, I did the only thing I know how to do: I hugged her.
They didn’t quite know how to respond. As soon as I recognized that, I took a step backward and started over with the comforting from afar…a new concept for me. I don’t know how to comfort from afar and, even more importantly, I’m not so certain how to comfort a sorrowful Amish woman. For me, I was raised that hugs heal. My mother was a great hugger. Hugs took away the pain from scrapes and bruises as a child and, later, heartache as a teenager. Without hugs, I don’t quite know how to comfort. My own children are hugged frequently, even when I’m not happy with them. One hug and the tension seems to ease. It’s hard to be mad at someone if you are hugging them.
Which brings me back to tears. My heart breaks for these two women. Seeing tears fall down their cheeks really upset me. First, because I didn’t know how to make them feel better. But secondly, because I’ve never seen an Amish woman anything but happy, smiling, or at least stoic! It really tore me apart to see those tears. It was an important reminder that I still have many lessons to learn. It might take me another twenty-five years…and I suspect that will still be mere surface knowledge of these amazing people.