Blogging Along the Brandywine: On being separate

This summer, we decided it was time to have a three-seasons room added to the back of our house where the original screened-in porch had been.

Going online, I found a top-rated company, three brothers in Lancaster County. We exchanged emails and set up an initial meeting with Michael.

The next day I answered the door. There stood a tall, slim young man. His hair, a basic bowl cut under a straw hat with a narrow black-band. He wore a trim beard but no mustache, a conservative short-sleeved shirt, plain black pants with suspenders and a straight black jacket.

Michael was Amish.

A thousand thoughts raced through my head at once, but all I could think of was the classic last line of the 1985 movie "Witness": "You be careful out among them English."

That's me. The English.

But soon this humble young man and my husband were walking around the old porch talking like friends about roof soffits, shingles, 4X4 posts, 5-foot-double-paned windows and tongue in groove pine ceilings.

During the weeks of construction, we were early risers. For despite having farm chores and an almost hour drive, they were here at 7 a.m. every morning ready to work in their truck driven by an employee.

There was a cell phone on which to make business calls, and a laptop to keep track of orders, contracts and the company website. Their power tools most often plugged into a generator.

But most amazing were their exemplary work habits. They didn't play the radio, spend time socializing on the job or take long lunch breaks, but focused on solid, quality work, making real progress every day.

Last week, Michael came back one more time to return a key. And as we sat in our cozy three-season room with our new friend, the conversation was easy.

The Amish, as Michael said, are Christians, though living in the Amish culture.

But what about all the technology?

Each local church district makes its own decisions about new technology. In this way, there are as many sets of "Ordnung" or rules as there are Amish churches. Technology in itself is not evil, but more importantly asks the question: Is it a threat to the cohesiveness of the community and family?

Michael was pragmatic about the need to use some modern technology in today's world and admitted that by living in northern Lancaster County, he would have a difficult time fitting in with some of the more conservative churches in the southern part of the county.

I asked him if he and his brothers had gone out on rumspringa. A corruption of the German word meaning, "to run about," rumspringa refers to the time when Amish youth go out in the world before deciding to join the church formally.

Not surprisingly, Michael said that the practice of rumspringa was greatly exaggerated and exploited by the media and no one in his family went out, nor had he ever felt the need.

In fact, most churches have youth groups that teenagers join at age 16. These groups, chaperoned by parents, enjoy community activities together. They remain members until marriage.

A Bible verse from Second Corinthians, often associated with the Amish is, "'Come out from among them and be ye separate,' saith the Lord."

It was something for me to ponder.

All my life, I've lived less than an hour from our neighbors, the Amish. We've observed black buggies with Standardbred horses, seen the men behind plows pulled by massive draft horses, and bought fresh Lancaster County corn or shoefly pie from Amish ladies in area farm markets.

All my life – but I never got to know them. It was my loss.

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to editor@chaddsfordlive.com

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About Sally Denk Hoey

Sally Denk Hoey, is a Gemini - one part music and one part history. She holds a masters degree cum laude from the School of Music at West Chester University. She taught 14 years in both public and private school. Her CD "Bard of the Brandywine" was critically received during her almost 30 years as a folk singer. She currently cantors masses at St Agnes Church in West Chester where she also performs with the select Motet Choir. A recognized historian, Sally serves as a judge-captain for the south-east Pennsylvania regionals of the National History Day Competition. She has served as president of the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates as well as the Sanderson Museum in Chadds Ford where she now curates the violin collection. Sally re-enacted with the 43rd Regiment of Foot and the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment for 19 years where she interpreted the role of a campfollower at encampments in Valley Forge, Williamsburg, Va., Monmouth, N.J. and Lexington and Concord, Mass. Sally is married to her college classmate, Thomas Hoey, otherwise known as "Mr. Sousa.”

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