My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Monday, April 15, 2013

Across Cultural Lines: My Friendship with the Amish

Sometimes a new friendship begins when you least expect it.

By the late 1990s I had been visiting Amish Indiana with various friends and relatives for fifteen years.  There were a handful of B&Bs that had become favorites, and I tried to visit at least twice a year, soaking up the local atmosphere and shopping for things for my home.

One summer I brought my 9-year old niece Amy for a visit, along with a friend and her daughter.  Our B&B owner had become friends with her Amish neighbors over the years, and since we were staying over a Sunday (rare for visitors, since nothing is open on Sunday)—she said, “My Amish neighbor sometimes takes my guests for buggy rides after church.  Do you think your niece would like that?” 

So the next afternoon, Glenn (as I now know him) pulled up in his buggy, and we took a ride.  It was wonderful!   A buggy goes just the right speed to see the countryside—fast enough for a constant change in scenery, but slow enough not to miss anything.  I was totally smitten.

The next morning we bought a Yoder’s gift certificate (a local department store frequented by the Amish).  We wrote some words of thanks on a card and drove over to deliver it to their farm.  I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it if no one came to the door—but Ruth (as I now know her) came out and, after we explained our errand, said the last thing I expected:  “Would you like to come in and have some lemonade?”

I had read everything I could find on the Amish during those early years, and I didn’t see this one coming.  They do business with “the English” (as they call us), but socializing with us—that isn’t so common.

Before long, my niece Amy had disappeared with Ruth’s children, not to be seen for the rest of the morning.  Amy fed livestock, hauled firewood on a wagon, and just generally had more fun than a girl from suburban Los Angeles could imagine.  When she came back with cow manure on her shoes, and Ruth had to hose it off, Amy said, “Cow manure!  I can’t wait to tell the kids at school!”

That was about fifteen years ago...  Ruth’s eight children, who all lived at home then, are mostly married now.  I’ve been to two of their family’s weddings, and six of them have been to mine.  I know their extended family and some of their friends, and they have met some of mine as well.  We have shared laughter and sorrow, and always, lots of good food! 

I still don’t know what they saw in me, or why they allowed me into their world.  But I have learned that friendship is friendship, across cultural lines—and this friendship is a “keeper.”

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