CAPTION: Author and educator Bruce Stambaugh in Mount Hope, Ohio.
By Kevin Williams
I have enjoyed reading Bruce Stambaugh's blog over the years and often feature his witty and pensive missives on our Tuesday blogroll feature. When I caught wind of word that he and his wife Neva were moving to Virginia, I felt it was "now or never" in terms of catching up with him in person. Since my whole family had to go my nephew's birthday party in Delaware, Ohio anyway my wife and I thought we might as well make a little family journey out of it and all go to Holmes County. That would allow me to catch up with Bruce before he decamped for Virginia.
Anyway, at the risk of sounding overly fawning, Bruce is as delightful in person as he is on his blog. Personally, I have a lot of admiration for him and his civic engagement, integrity, and accessibility. Here are some summaries and snippets of my conversation with him. I could have talked to him for quite a bit longer but we both had full schedules, but I'm sure this isn't the last you'll see of him on Amish365!
First, he and his wife have lived essentially their whole adult lives in the Holmes County hills but are moving to Harrisonburg, Virginia primarily to be closer to their grandkids, ages 13,10, and 7.
"We didn’t want to miss them growing up, I know how important it was to have my parents around," Bruce muses. Their new digs are six hours away, but Harrisonburg is home to a large Mennonite presence, including Old Order Mennonites outside of town. The Stambaugh's daughter is the volleyball coach at Eastern Mennonite University and her husband works in the administrative end at EMU The Stambaugh's son lives in Dover, Ohio, but with no grandchildren in Ohio, the move to Virginia beckoned.
"We are six hours away, but Amish and Mennonite communities are connected," Bruce says, citing a number of friends in common between the communities and their work in Mennonite Youth Fellowship hosting young people.
I was thrilled to find out that Bruce is working on a book about his years living among the Amish. I, for one, cannot wait and will be sharing with all of you when it is available. The title? Aptly, Among the Amish.
"There is so much out there about the Amish and a lot is not accurate, there are two things about the Amish that most people don’t understand: They don’t want to be put on a pedestal and Hollywood demeans them and they don’t like that either. Let us go about our business, is their attitude," Bruce says (couldn't have said it better myself, throughout our conversation I kept nodding in vigorous agreement as we compared notes on our Amish experiences)
This is more of Bruce's description of his book, Among the Amish, in his own words:
"What I am attempting to do is make each chapter a personal story that I have experienced that I will share about the Amish lifestyle. I talk about weddings, funerals, accidental deaths....being a neighbor, township trustee, principal, I try give a cross-section of what Amish lifestyle is like from the English viewpoint. I have interjected how well accepted my wife and I have become in the community.. Politically, socially,it all overlaps, if you make friends and develop a trust with one person, it spreads. I have so appreciated the inclusion, acceptance and trust they have shown me because I have gone to bat for them. They will not speak up because that is part of who they are."
Bruce then told me an interesting story about a "flasher" who visited the school where he was principal. He had exposed himself to some children during recess and when the children told their parents what happened, Bruce urged them to call the police. What one of the Amish parents said next was revealing:
"We won't, but you can."
So he did.
Tomorrow, I'll share more of my conversation with Bruce (I know, people's attention spans are short, so I broke it up into two!)