I have been spending time in Northeastern Indiana–the land of my roots–to introduce my children to their aunts, uncles and many, many cousins. Catching up with extended family has made it difficult to formulate a post in the past couple of weeks, but I have a few moments this morning and wanted to capture a thought that has been rattling around in my head since I arrived here.
Anyone who has spent time in this part of the U.S. will be familiar with the presence of the Amish as part of the cultural landscape. My children, as city kids, are fascinated whenever they see a carriage with families traveling along the side of the roads. However, I invariably consider about how stifling I would find it to not be able to interact with the outside world in the way that is familiar to me. In short, I wonder what it would be like not to be able to be part of the modern world and immediately subtract all of this from my “happiness quotient”, which is the same view I have held of the Amish lifestyle since I was a child.
Earlier this week, I was sitting with my uncle, who is a prominent small town lawyer, about an Amish client of his. He was going over some documents while we were chatting, and I said “So how do you talk to him? Do you have to drive out to his homestead?” My uncle laughed, and said “Oh, Jackie, they all have cell phones here.” And just then, the phone rang with the Amish client, and they proceeded to have a conversation about his substantial financial assets.
After his call was over, my uncle revealed some very interesting things about the “modern” Amish of Northeastern Indiana. Unlike years past, many have become very prosperous by engaging with technology such as cell phones, satellite Internet and generators. One of his clients has owns a factory with 100 employees that makes the “Amish-made” products that are sold in Bed Bath and Beyond. As he related this information, I recalled that the Amish houses we passed on the way up here looked very new, as opposed to the lived-in look from the Amish of my childhood memories of the 1970’s and 80’s. (The carriages we passed on the road were certainly much more modern and well-appointed with shock absorbers and safety equipment than the one in the picture above.) Continue reading