Have you ever just picked up a book at the library because it caught your eye, then read it and realize it was not just a story, but something special for you, at the perfect time? That’s what happened with me and More Than Happy by Serena Miller and Paul Stutzman.
I have lived my whole life in Texas, no where near Amish country. My knowledge of the Amish is sparse, if not practically nonexistent. Beards, modest dress, and buggies are about all I knew. Serena walked into the lives of her Amish friends, interviewing, watching, and learning about their culture. I found out I have a lot more in common with them than I ever thought I did! I wanted to share my biggest takeaways and most meaningful parts, mostly in the form of direct book quotation and some of my own notes. An expository on each quote would take far too long, so I’m just going to leave it in the author’s words and you can make your own connections. Thank you for a beautifully written book that I could connect with and glean so much from, Serena.
“This couple does not use the work ‘love’ overmuch in their household. It is not a word tossed about cheaply. Instead, from what I can see, love simply shines through in their actions, showering their children and all who come beneath their roof with a sense of blessing and peace.”
“The best life in an Amish man’s mind, is one which he has meaningful work that puts him in close daily contact with his wife and children.”
“These people are taught to take time to think before they speak…” [Speaking about the ‘Amish Pause’]
“A woman who is a good manager, a good mother, a good cook, and obedient to God is a prize in the Amish culture- and best of all, she knows it.”
“Mothers take the training and teaching of their children very seriously. In fact, most Amish women I know find a great deal of satisfaction in their work at home. They see their role as being absolutely essential to the continuance of their culture. It helps that their role is deeply respected within the Amish community.”
“They are not forbidden to work outside the home… the concern is about a mother’s job taking her away from her children.”
“This philosophy is almost equally applied to men. Fathers, on the whole see being able to work from home- especially on your own land- to be ideal, but will ‘work out’ if that’s the only way to provide for their family. At least, the men will ‘work out’ to a point, but if a job takes them too far away from their family, they simply won’t consider it- even if the money is good.”
“They see 1 Peter 4:8-9 as a spiritual command: ‘Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.’ Hospitality is a way of life… It is a culture that is intentionally designed to spend time together, help each other, and build a sense of purpose together. That has a profound impact on the way they raise their children.”
“Those who visit in your home can help validate all the things you are trying to teach your children… it’s worth it… it can have an enormously positive impact on your children.”
“I realized that what I’m used to [when families get together to eat] are nervous, distracted, Englisch [the term used for non-Amish people] parents hovering over children who frequently don’t get along with one another and constantly interrupt with questions and squabbles.”
“I believe that kind of behavior comes from a deep well of contentment within the children, and that comes from true security- the knowledge that all is right with their world and if it isn’t, there are big people who love them and who will fix it.”
[adopted] They are not allowed to go to school past the 8th grade. At that point, they can choose to, but will result in leaving the church (and the community they have grown up in), or become Mennonite.
When the Amish leave school, they have a good grasp of reading, writing, math, and geography and also speak another language, then they might be taught by older workers a trade, similar to vocational school.
There is no homework ever, because it interferes with family.
They bring their kids to everything to learn: to work, funerals, to sell goods, anything. They also face death together as a community. “[The children] see mothers taking food, washing dishes, and sitting up with the bereaved. They see fathers helping out with the farm chores while the family heals. They learn kindness by observing and by helping as soon as they are old enough. This is important not just because they learn to give of themselves when there is a tragedy, but also because they learn to have the assurance that the same will be done for their own family when the time comes.”
“They are always, intentionally, being taught how to be a helpful part of their community.”
On World Views:
Englisch- We look for more significance in our jobs. In addition to a paycheck, we long for some validation in the form of prestige or identity or at least purpose.
Amish- They seldom equate identity with their work. A job is a job. If it pays the bills, great. If it supports the family, great. Most important though is putting the needs of the community above their own desires or ‘passion’.
From an Amish farmer- “My dream for my children is that they grow up to be people of value.” Happiness is not their primary objective. Not for their children and not for themselves. It is a by-product that comes from treating others well.
“Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”
Let the elderly go first, then men, then women and children.
Speaking about and to husbands with utmost respect.
Be “quick to listen and slow to speak”, giving weight to everyone’s words and pondering them, considering them.
Do not interrupt each other.
On Work Ethic:
“Chores help a child feel like they are a necessary part of the family.”
“Let them earn money for working hard and self-discipline.”
“The constant distractions put a wedge between us and the children. It distracts us, it distracts them, and they don’t get our undivided attention.”
Go into their world to communicate with them. You may not love [fill in the blank], but you love them.