Thursday, April 19, 2012

What do the Amish do without Television?

I’ll never forget my shopping trip with Susan years ago. She was in her mid 20’s and I wasn’t much older. Our trip consisted of a trip from Cherry Creek to a quaint, little town only seven miles away. Randolph had a variety store, full of cooking utensils, crafts, and just about everything imaginable.

Susan walked around in amazement, taking delight in everything from new pot holders to cross-stitch patterns. I looked around…bored and impatient. I kept thinking of how deprived Susan was. I mean, she acted like she was in a major store in the city. She slowly picked up things and just stared at them.

A long hour later, after she got the things on her list, we drove back to her place. The whole way, I held my tongue. But when the ten minute ride was up, I just looked at Susan and sighed. “What do you do for fun?” But I was thinking, Susan, you are so deprived! You need to get out more!

Susan looked at me confused. “I don’t know. Lots of things.”

I almost blurted out, Milk cows? Feed chickens?

“I love to watch birds. You know we raise white doves, right?” Susan asked.

“Yes, but….WHAT DO YOU DO WITHOUT TELEVISION?” There, I did it. I had the nerve to ask an Amish person this bottled up question.

Susan looked at the white doves that swooped around her barn. “Well, we like to visit. I have lots of girlfriends, and we get together at least once a week to make some kind of craft.”

My heart sunk. Friends? I’d seen large groups of Amish women on front porches, just sitting and talking. I, on the other hand, had four kids that I homeschooled and was out four nights a week to violin, piano, karate, and dance lessons. Yep, each child had their own talent and a night that took me away from doing things with friends. Actually, I only had a few close friends at church.

“Do you have lots of friends, Susan?” I asked.

“Jah, and so many cousins, I keep losing track of the number. Then there’s nieces and nephews…”

My family lived in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, and I longed to live near them. But my husband’s job was in NY and we made the best of it.

“So, Susan, what else besides friends?”

“I love to read. I read a lot.”

Another touchy spot. I love to read too, and took a book and read a few pages while waiting for one of my kids to finish a lesson.

“And we spend lots of time as a family…”

Okay, Susan was hitting a real nerve now. Being away so much at night, I rarely saw my husband. He worked seventy hours a week…but we caught up on the weekends, I kept telling myself. But it wasn’t true. Our marriage was wilting due to lack of water and sunshine, just like a plant.

Susan looked at me in pity. “I can show you lots of other things we do. Work frolics are fun.”

I told her I had to run….clock was ticking and the babysitter needed paid. She took her bags and told me to come back anytime to chat. She wasn’t busy.  

On the ride home, something snapped in me. Our lives were revolving around two things; our kids and television. My elderly neighbors tried to tell me my kids could all take piano or…maybe nothing. When they were kids, there was no such thing as a private lesson.

So, I talked to my husband, and he smiled so much, I thought he was going to scream “Touchdown!” Someone had finally gotten through to me that my kids wouldn’t die if they didn’t have lessons. Our kids wouldn’t die if we actually put our relationship first instead of them.

So we pulled the plug on the television and canceled lessons. The kids didn’t even mind, saying they’d have more free time. They weren’t as addicted to the television as I was, because I didn’t let them “waste their lives” watching it. I went cold turkey and it was hard. But I started to see my day was suddenly much longer. I had time to read and visit friends. I got more involved in our church, and volunteered to help with the teens. Tim and I got out our guitars and sang together again.

A year later, I saw a television on in a waiting room at the doctor’s office. I just gawked. It was so corny. So unrealistic. So hyped up. It didn’t portray real life at all. I knew that, because I actually now had one!  

My kids are now in their twenties and thank me for limiting television and not having any electronic games when they were young. They have so many good childhood memories that are real, not living their lives through someone else. That’s how the Amish view television. They wonder why people watch other people live, but don’t live themselves.

I’m so grateful for Susan and the wake-up call I got the day we went shopping. My husband and I are so happily married, since we “water” our relationship often because… we don’t watch television. We have a flat screen and a DVD library, but it’s hardly ever on. We’re too busy living.


  1. Awesome. Us too. TV gets in the way of life.

    1. Pam, I wasn't expecting lots of traffic on this post, since most people think you're a little "off" for not watching "the box". Nice to know I have some company. Thanks for dropping by ;)

  2. My husband and I are "box less" by choice. We do get asked "what do you do without a TV?" I tell them, we read, do crafts, and enjoy the QUIET! :0)

    1. Susan, you sound like us. People call us "Almost Amish"...I take that as a compliment ;)