Thursday, April 12, 2012

Do the Amish have Non-Amish Friends? Are they friendly with people who aren’t Amish?


“The Amish are as varied as the flavors of ice cream,” someone once told me, and I believe it’s true. Some are very friendly to us “outsiders”, but some will avoid any contact, making you feel like you carry a contagion. I’ve received the right hand of fellowship and the cold shoulder. But to answer this often asked question, yes, the Amish do have English, sometimes called Yankee, Non-Amish friends. I’d like to share my story, and then give you some helpful ways to befriend an Amish person yourself.
When I lived in Upstate NY, I was immediately drawn to the Amish and a friend of mine took me around and introduced me to a few families. They were friendly to her, but looked at me with suspicion. I was quite turned off at first; no one wants to be treated like one of the lepers in the movie, Ben Hur. And that’s how I felt for a while, and that the Amish were just plain stuck up.

But they had huge families and good advice on how to live off the land. So, I went back to an Amish woman my friend introduced me to, and asked for a recipe for granola. I told her I had four young children and needed cheap, healthy recipes. The woman started to beam; Amish women  take great pride…oops….not a bad pride but a good one…in their culinary skills. So she gave me a few recipes. I wanted to learn to can and preserve, so she told me to go to Hershberger's Variety and ask Harry and Katie and further questions.   
So, I took my four little kids to visit Harry, and they loved the store, with the many coloring books, marbles, chalk, jacks, jump rope….I could go on. And Harry took a real shine to my kids. Actually, Harry and, Katie, his wife welcomed our soon to be weekly visits because Harry was a paraplegic. His story is told in Knit Together: An Amish Knitting Novel. It’s my first book, and it had to be about Harry. His buggy was hit as a young father and Amish built him a variety store so he’d have an income. He made quilts, saying “I can use my hands,” with a thankful heart. I became very close to this family, even being asked into the Amish co-op, by their sponsorship. (You can’t get in unless asked by an Amish person.)

Well, this relationship went on for a long while. I took Harry’s quilts to festivals and he even offered to teach my children German when they needed a second language, since they were homeschooled. But, we moved back home after fourteen years of being in New York. Back home to Western PA. And Harry and Katie’s bishop did not allow them to write to me. It was very upsetting, to say the least, since Amish are devoted writers.

But since there’s a settlement not far from my place in PA, I went off the beaten path in Smicksburg to meet some of the Amish. Going to their many stores where women sell baked goods to quilts, crafts, or have greenhouses, I found them extremely friendly. But, “Granny Weavers” (she’s a main character in Amish Knitting Circle and wishes to be anonymous) took me by surprise. Her warmth and openness was unique, and I loved her. (See post on “Inside Granny Weaver’s Quilt Shop) When I told her I was upset that Harry and Katie couldn’t write, she swatted at the air in disgust and said, “That’s ridiculous. I’ve had Englishers stay overnight in my house.” She went on to tell me she knew Harry and Katie through circle letters. And her granddaughter is married to one of Harry and Katie’s nephews. So she’s told me any news about my friends in New York over the past ten years. I’d tell her how my kids are doing and Harry and Katie I assume got word, through Granny.  
Back to this blog; taking a long trip down memory lane. Well, the more Amish I met in Smicksburg , like Lydia, (Katie Byler in Knit Together) it was like I was “in” since I was accepted as a trusted English friend by Harry and Katie and word got around. I can only compare it to being accepted into an Italian Club. If you’re born Italian, you’re in. If you’re recommended by an Italian and not Italian, you can still get in. So, the Amish in Smicksburg have opened up to me and befriended me because of a solid trusting relationship with Harry and Katie.

As you can see, there are different “orders” of Amish. The ones in New York are Troyer Amish, and not as friendly to outsiders, even though they have non-Amish friends. There are some groups like the Swartzentruber Amish, who my Amish friends feel are just “plain strange”. They’re as standoffish as they come. I wouldn’t get along with them either, since they don’t even plant flowers or keep their houses looking nice since it shows “vanity”. They also ignore PA health laws, letting their outhouses flow freely into PA State Lands or even sources of public drinking water.
If you want to meet an Amish person, and possibly be their friend, here’s what I suggest. Erik Wesner was here on the blog, (see former posts) and I became more familiar with his website www.amishamerica.com He has a state-by-state list of Amish settlements that he keeps updated. Here’s the link. http://amishamerica.com/amish-state-guide/. You’ll be surprised how many states the Amish live in now. Go to one of the settlements and don’t go toa tourist store, but travel the back roads. You’ll see many signs to all kinds of craft stores, bakeries etc. Be a customer and give them your business. Visit a few times, maybe ask for a recipe at first since this is non-threatening. Then ask if they’d like to be pen pals or if they know of someone who would. The Amish love to write letters and have English pen pals. If you live close by, offer to drive them to Wal-Mart. Oh, how they love Wal-Mart. They also need rides to doctor’s appointments and are always so thankful.

If you have an Amish friend and can add to this post, please feel free. And if you become a trusted English friend by reading this post, I’d love to hear your story, and possibly post it. Please contact me through my main website at www.karenannavogel.com


22 comments:

  1. What a great post!
    I have a couple blossoming relationships with a few Amish ladies. It is so neat to learn about their life, family, religion. My son is penpals with 2 little people, one girl and one boy and he just loves to get their letters and write his letters to them. He is learning about acceptance of people that are not exactly like us in their beliefs and it encourages him to write.
    Everyone of the ladies I write to have opened there homes to me and are encouraging for us to come visit this summer. Of course they are all in different settlements! They have all given me a phone number to leave messages for them and they will get back to me when they can.
    It is nice to send an recieve postal mail and it is mail that is sent with lot's of feeling.
    My goal is to make it to visit 3 of my said penpals this summer.
    I actually dropped by a different penpal in Fredricksburg, Ohio enroute to Buffalo from Florida in March. She was so surprised but overjoyed that I stopped by! It was so nice to put a face to the many letters we have exchanged.
    Great blog topic Karen!
    Allyson

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    1. Allyson,
      I just got a penpal and didn't know it was one of their popular past times. Your story's amazing. Would you like to write your story out for my blog? Maybe have your kids share. So interesting that you actually visit them!

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  2. Very sweet and interesting Karen! I feel as if I want to travel some back roads soon and do this. Lovely folk....

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    1. Karen, you need to take knitting classes with me in Smicksburg!

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  3. Well, I live 30 miles from a small Amish Community and go over there to visit now and then, but, there are some/most of them that act (stuckup) I have went to the Bulk Food Store and they will answer you if you ask a question about something in the store, but, they are quite quiet!

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    1. Rosiej,
      The stricter orders are super quiet around outsiders. Maybe ask for a recipe?

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  4. Very interesting Karen. The Amish definitely have a few things we could all learn from.

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    1. I agree...you need to take knitting with me in Smicksburg too. I'm assuming this is mia sorella, Madia?

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  5. Very interesting post, Karen. I love the idea of finding an Amish pen pal! Thanks for sharing with us.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I forgot to mention that the Amish get "fancy" stationery for their letters. So if you find a pen pal, you don't have to use lined, white paper. Hope you find one ;)

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  6. I definitely have met very friendly Amish folk in Shipshewana, IN as well as in Sugarcreek, OH. Thanks for the post. : )

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  7. Vannetta, I'll have to have you on the blog and you can tell us all your stories that inspire your books. Thanks for stopping in ;)

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  8. I found the only Amish community in NC from the site you listed in your post. We visited there this past Saturday. They have a general store with a bakery, run by an Amish family (they live above the store). It was so much fun. We drove down a back road and stopped at one man's business/home. He makes outbuildings and gazebos and he had so many bird houses hanging in his yard (that's what caught my eye). He was so friendly and willing to share his knowledge about "his" birds :), even gave us his phone number so we could call back and get the name of the place he orders his gourds from!

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    1. Hi Anne!
      I'll tell Erik his site is helping others connect with the Amish. The Amish are avid birders. When I first got to know Harry and Katie I asked them...How do you live with TV? They said they did a lot of bird watching. Funny, now, I don't have TV and take pictures of birds. Don't miss TV at all! ;)

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  9. I was in the Troyer Amish settlement you write about yesterday 4-14-12 and had a great time visiting many friends that I have met over the last twenty years. Had lunch at one home and will stay over night with a family before the annual benefit auction in May. I have found that if you are down to earth and respectful most Amish love to sit back and have a conservation with "English friends".

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    1. Tom, were you in the Cherry Creek area? Yes, the Troyer are friendly once you've gained their trust. Thanks for the comment!

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    2. Yes I was all over the area...South Dayton, leon, Cherry Creek, Randolph and Napoli. I always have a great day and find many warm welcomes.

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  10. Karen, Thank you so much for you post. It has showed me so much about what kind people they are.I thought Amish were not permitted to talk to outsiders unless in business form.I have always loved the simplicity of there life. I'm so interred in there lifestyle. I live about 45 minutes form Smicksburg. I love and enjoy every moment I get there.

    Have a Blessed Day,
    Christy

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  11. Hi Karen, just found your blog! I live in Ohio and have wonderful Amish friends. It is ironic that I stumbled across your blog today, as I just received a letter from one of my Amish friends sharing the good news of the birth of their 6th child! They are truly wonderful, beautiful people. We share recipes, gifts among the children, plus our love of canning and quilting (although my "quality" doesn't compare to hers!!!) I feel at home when I visit them, often staying for lunch, dinner in their cozy home!

    Look forward to reading your posts!

    Happy New Year

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    1. Hello Ann, I just read your post and I was wondering if you could help me out? Ive been reading alot of books about Amish, even the sweet love stories. I think it would be wonderful to find an Amish lady to have as a pen pal. I was wondering if you could help me out. Do you know of any who would like to write? Or how I could find someone to write too? I'm no where near an Amish community. I live in Elberton, Georgia. Around here, no one knows anything about the Amish culture. Thank you for reading this. You can email me at kagrunt2000@yahoo.com or kagrunt2000@gmail.com

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  12. Hello, My name is Kayla Anderson. I'm 22 years old and live in Elberton, Georgia. I've been reading a lot of Amish books. I've fallen in love with the Amish life. I would love it if I could find an Amish lady pen pal, someone one around my age. I love reading your post. I am glad I came a pon this story. If you know of how I can find a Amish pen pal, that would be wonderful. You can email me at kagrunt2000@yahoo.com Thank you for your story!

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  13. I as well would love a pen pal, I was raised Amish like, and am now in Oregon, it would bring me great joy!!

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