Not long ago I had the pleasure of driving on the back roads of Northwestern Pennsylvania. It was a dirt road lined with grazing sheep, white clapboard houses and laundry lines filled with a rainbow of blues and purples. Void of telephone poles and flashy billboards I felt a sense of peace and serenity. I parked the car on the side of the road and took in the sights and sounds of the Amish lifestyle I was driving through.
Across the road sat an Amish schoolhouse on recess break. The children didn’t take any mind to me since they were deep in a game of baseball. A horse and buggy passed my way, and the older gentleman with a long white beard tipped his hat to me and gave me a warm smile as he passed. I felt a bit embarrassed just sitting there. I almost felt like I was eavesdropping on a conversation I wasn’t meant to hear.
My heart ached for what they had. A simple life far away from high-pressured jobs, traffic jams and busy lives. Did they know that what they had held so much appeal to so many of us? Did they realize that many of us idolize their lifestyle and yearn to unlock the secrets of their simple existence?
How can a society that moves so fast, have the opportunity to be anything they want to be, go anywhere they desire but still feel so very empty? What is it that we find so fascinating about the Amish?
I have to believe that as life becomes more hectic, we fantasize more and more about a slower, simpler lifestyle. Life similar to the way the Amish live.
As I sat there, I was reminded of my childhood. I grew up in a small farming community in Pennsylvania surrounded by the Amish and very similar to the one I was visiting that day. While I knew that their lives had hardships and issues just like mine their appeal still had a hold on me.
As I watched the children play, they seemed carefree and innocent. I thought of my children at that age. Mine had been surrounded by movies and media that I was positive influenced some of their later choices as teenagers. While I am not naive to think those Amish children wouldn’t face some of the same obstacles my kids did I felt a peace knowing their exposure to it would come much later in life.
I am not sure how long I sat there before I realized their recess was over, and the schoolyard was empty.
My thoughts were filled with how I could take this peaceful feeling I had all the way back to South Carolina with me. I couldn’t help to think about how hard my husband and I had worked to slow down and push the stress from our lives, but I still felt the pressure of living in the 21st century. As I started the car and pulled back out on the road, and it wasn’t long before I began to think about more ways we could simplify our lives. I had worked and lived around many Amish communities, and I knew that their day-to-day lives depended on their faith in God and how they strived to incorporate love and grace in everything they did. From their work ethic, commitment to the community, strong family ties, and most of all to their faithfulness to God it was a lifestyle so many of us are drawn to. What I soon realized was that those were things I already had, and it wouldn’t take me becoming Amish to experience the same sense of peace I thought only they could possess.
Before I left the back roads and continued my trip back to South Carolina, I pulled over one more time to enjoy the view. The home in front of me was a massive white house surrounded by beautiful gardens and pastures for a picture postcard scene. An older woman was sitting on the porch shucking what looked like a bucket of peas; two children were pulling weeds in the garden, a girl was hanging a basket of clothes, while a boy was pushing a lawn mower across the front yard. There was a homemade sign at the end of the driveway announcing they had fresh brown eggs and raw honey for sale, and I couldn’t help but smile at the realization I had just had.
It was like God was showing me he had already given me what I yearned for I just needed to look at my own life and reclaim it.
I waved at the woman on the porch as I pulled away. With a smile on my face and tears in my eyes, I looked in my rear view mirror for one last look at a little piece of heaven I thought I could only find on the back roads of Pennsylvania.
As I pulled onto the interstate, I couldn’t help but think of the scene I had just witnessed. All this time I felt I was missing what they had, but in all reality, I had it I just wasn’t appreciating it. I couldn’t wait to get home to pick green beans, to hang the laundry, to feed the chickens and gather eggs, and to see if honey needed to be pulled from the hive, but most of all to see my children, and to check on a friend from church who was ill.
I also knew while my work keeps me tied to my high-tech devices I know at the end of the day I can close my laptop and escape into my own simple life separate from the face-paced life that surrounds me.
I learned a lot in those few hours I spent driving through that Amish settlement and while I knew the life God provided for me was different than that of my Amish friends I learned I needed to embrace my life…even if I choose to do so with a little Amish style.
Photo by: Jim Fisher