By Kevin Williams
I was taking Aster to school this morning and we passed a pole barn being put up by an Amish construction crew. I saw the wooden skeleton of the structure before I could see who was putting it up but from the style I suspected it might be Amish craftsmen. I told Aster to look and we’ll see if they are Amish. We quickly spotted straw hats and suspenders and knew it was an Amish crew. So then Aster posed the question of what makes a person Amish. That’s actually a very complex question, but for a six year-old, the answers are much more simple. I told her to list all the things that she thinks makes a person Amish. She was excited when I told her I’d post her answers here:
ASTER’S LIST, IN HER WORDS
Having a buggy
If you were a boy, having a beard
Wearing Amish clothes
Wearing an Amish hat
Live how Amish people live
Live where Amish people live
It was cute to hear what she had to say. I told her that attending church services is a crucial item to add to a list, I think you’d need to attend Amish church services and interpret the Bible in the same way to really be considered Amish. Once you get past church services, though, the rest is murkier.
Amish “straw hats”…..
Speaking German (Pennsylvania Dutch) is close to the top of any list. The separate language has reinforced the important part of separateness that the Amish cultivate. That said, there are a lot of Old Order Mennonites that don’t speak German and converts to the Amish might not speak it.
Not having electricity, you’d think, would be on the list, but plenty of Amish have solar-generated electric and there are groups of Amish that do use grid electric but I’d still consider them Amish because they meet other criteria on our list.
Otherwise, Aster’s list is pretty good. I think she was right to put the buggy on the list. I think it would be very tough to maintain the contours of Amish life with a car. The community closeness, family, and connection to the land would be lost….