Hi Saloma, I enjoyed your thought provoking articles. What, if anything, have you missed about being Amish since you left?
In 2004, when I went back to my original community for my father’s funeral, I was reminded of the sense of community that comes from many people working closely together. Seeing how the other families came in and pretty much took care of everything in my brother’s and parents’ home was something to behold — everyone knew their place and everyone did their part. I had such a strong sense of nostalgia and longing to be part of such a close-knit community. This feeling increased as one relative after another (I have numerous uncles and aunts, and something like 168 first cousins) came and talked with me. In many of the conversations someone would say, “Remember the time when…” I was very surprised by this friendly reception. I always thought it would be really tense to go back into the community for a funeral, and here I felt surrounded by camaraderie from the very people I thought would be my judges. And this was within the environment of being formally shunned (more on shunning and what it all means later) and yet I felt a part of the community for that short time.
I also miss a life without as many distractions as what one finds in mainstream American culture. I’ve done some reflecting on why we are drawn to the Amish culture. Whenever we see a horse and buggy on a back country road, or a farmer in the field with a team of horses or mules, we can ask ourselves what that lifestyle reflects to us about our own. Defining what aspects of theirs appeals to us could help us to live our own lives more consciously. Perhaps it is simply that we need to slow down the fast pace of our lives and enjoy the time we have on this earth. After all, the Amish are not on a headlong pursuit of the latest fashions and technologies.
There are also some aspects of the Amish culture that helped shape who I am today, such as their sound work ethic and the homespun arts, such as quilting, baking, braiding woolen rugs, sewing, and keeping a modest, austere, and orderly home. I really appreciate these.
This is a very different answer than I would have given to this question twenty years ago, when the trauma of leaving the Amish was still very raw. At that time, I would have said that I cannot think of anything. I am sure I will be healing for the rest of my life, but I appreciate being able to experience gratitude and joy, and to sort out the complexities of my life, past and present. I have actually gotten to the point of being grateful for my Amish past, difficult as it was in those years of living there and the years right after my leaving. It is, after all, through adversity that I learn the most – about myself and what it means to be human.
Thank you for your questions. I will be addressing what it means to be shunned from the community in my next posting. I will follow up with courtship practices after that.