Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.  (I Thessalonians 4:11-12)

I don’t read the newspaper much. I have other things to do. But the other evening, Ken gave me the article from Sunday’s Denver Post that featured an article on the Amish who have been relocating to the southern part of Colorado in the San Luis Valley. Troyers from Missouri, Troyers from Ohio, and Millers from Montana. It reminded me of where I come from.

My mama was born Amish as Fannie Troyer in central Ohio. In the late 1920’s, half of her clan relocated to old Mexico, and the other half migrated to the border of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina. The family that chose Mexico as their destination fell victim to disease and died. Mama’s family homesteaded in Moyock, North Carolina, established a farm and worked hard to survive. Mama and her five sisters always tried to always pick the prettiest cloth flour sacks from the delivery wagon that brought staples to their home because they sewed their dresses from those flour sacks. Mama has an eighth grade education. She learned the basics. She taught me how to work with my hands.

I lived in the heart of an Amish community for five years in Grantsville, PA. I never went to Kindergarten because Yoder School didn’t have a Kindergarten class – but I began first grade when I was five years old. It was a 3-room Amish School and some of my girlfriends were Alma Miller, Ada Mast, and Gertrude.

They worked hard. They didn’t care what others said about them when they had cow dung on their boots during school as a remnant from their daily morning chores. As a kid, I remember turning up my nose to the smell and trying to escape the lingering aroma. They walked to school, I rode the bus. Their only form of transportation was the horse and buggy, we had a car. They didn’t plug things in, they only had a gas generator for power on the farm. We all had packed lunches – there was no cafeteria at the school – and it was all homemade.

The Amish accept the basic tenets of Christian faith. They emphasize values such as simplicity, community, separation of church and state, pacifism and lay leadership. They do not pay into the Social Security system (Congressional exemption in 1965) because the Amish view it as a commercial insurance, which they oppose. They believe church members should care for one another and do not receive Social Security benefits. They oppose war and file appropriate paperwork with the government as conscientious objectors to the war when it’s time for young men to sign up for the draft.

According to the article in the Post, in 2010 there are an estimated 810 Amish in Colorado compared to nearly 60,000 in Pennsylvania. The Amish are moving west.

Creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, innovation. Those words are foundational for me because that is where I came from. I learned to work with my hands. I was surrounded by artisans who maintain simplicity. Cooking, baking, woodworking, sewing, carving, gardening, farming – yes these simple things root me in the soil of living today.

I am thankful to the Amish for providing me the example that Paul wrote about in I Thessalonians. I pray for all those who live their lives privately and without fanfare, not desiring any reward or recognition. I pray for humility and ask that you seek to understand those who have different backgrounds than you. Hum along…

Simple Gifts

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,                       
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend, we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right

Carole Schumacher

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