Learning from the Amish
New York Times bestselling author of Amish fiction Wanda Brunstetter, and her daughter, Jean, did a book signing last Friday, Oct. 30 at a Christian store in Shipshewana.
Alas, my wife and I didn’t make it—we were four weeks too early. Still, I feel Wanda deserves a shoutout for being the primary reason we visited Amish country in northern Indiana.
It started a few months when my wife was nearing the end of another novel (she’s read a bunch during the pandemic). On the last page she saw an ad for one of the town’s leading attractions, a rather unusual occurrence in the book world.
Jumping online, she found this was a real place, not a fictional setting. Intrigued, she did some more searching and ordered a book from the local travel and tourism office.
Soon, we had decided that since our earlier plans for a getaway had been scuttled by COVID-19-related problems, we would take the time to see this place.
My only complaint about our trip was I wished we could have taken more time off, but these days, you have to seize an opportunity when it arises.
Now, it’s not that we had never visited an Amish setting before. My sister-in-law lives about 30 minutes from an Amish settlement in northeastern Ohio, which we have been to several times.
Still, there’s always something fascinating about the first visit to unexplored territory. In this case, we weren’t disappointed.
One of the reasons was an incredible bed and breakfast, the Old Carriage Inn. Not only were we treated like family, on the Saturday night of our visit the owner invited us to have dinner with her and some relatives.
That, incredible breakfasts, and a most comfortable bedroom, rate five stars in my book.
A Great Example
I think there are many reasons for the fascination with the Amish that recently propelled Wanda’s sales past the 11 million mark. And, in the aftermath of a most fractious election, I think American society can learn some things from them:
- A slower pace
I realize Shipshewana is a small town, but despite the crush of tourists milling about throughout the day the atmosphere didn’t feel rushed or pressured.
When the nearest interstate highway is like venturing onto the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s nice to see horse-drawn carriages and hear the “clip-clop clip-clop” sounds emanating from the buggy.
- Unplugging from technology
A major irony occurred the morning after we arrived, when the Amish woman who served our breakfast pulled out her cell phone to call her daughter.
Still, while some Amish have made certain concessions to modern life, it was refreshing to walk through town and notice hardly anyone’s face stuck in a phone.
That, coupled with some research I did while working on a book about the negative impacts of social media, convinced me to disable Facebook from my smartphone soon after our trip.
- Loving one another
In one store, I noticed a photo of an Amish barn raising and a Scripture verse about love, something in evidence in abundance in the picture.
I found myself longing for more community gatherings where we live, which is too often missing from American life—especially in the fear-driven pandemic times in which we live.
Now, I think we do the Amish a disservice when we romanticize them and act as if their idyllic way of life is perfect, when in fact they are human too.
Yet if we pay attention to their example, I’ll think we’ll be better off as a society.