Instead of our normal summer vacation to the beach, we decided to explore parts of the US that we had never seen. This summer's choice was the Amish County of Lancaster, Pa.
We rented a van so the long trip would be more comfortable than trying to pack all our suitcases, wheelchairs, and other medical supplies in my sedan. It was a good choice and made the trip much more pleasant. It also reminded me how much I want a van to make loading and unloading wheelchairs easier on my back!
We headed out early in the morning and battled the horrendous traffic around Washington, DC and Baltimore, and then finally ended up in the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania. My home state, Virginia, has some beautiful farmland, but I don't think I have ever seen prettier lands and views than those of Pennsylvania. Everything just seemed so 'orderly' and that definitely appealed to my OCD personality.
We weren't long in Pennsylvania before we encountered our first Amish buggy. Though the horse pulling the buggy seemed to be moving pretty fast for a horse, the buggy held up the automobile traffic, and forced us to slow down until passing was safe. But in a strange way, I enjoyed that. After the craziness in DC and Baltimore, having to slow down was a good thing. I began to feel the tension leave my shoulders, and my hands no longer had a death grip on the steering wheel. We had specifically mapped our route to include the countryside, and I am so glad we did.
Before the vacation, I did some research on the Amish. I discovered that they trace their heritage back hundreds of years, and yet, despite all the time that has passed and the many changes that have taken place in society, they still live and work much as their forefathers did. Their families and their farms are their top priorities, second only to God.
The Amish are very devout in their faith. They believe in the literal interpretation and application of Scripture as the Word of God. They take seriously the Biblical commands to separate themselves from the things of the world. They believe worldliness can keep them from being close to God, and can introduce influences that could be destructive to their communities and to their way of life. They do not own or operate automobiles, believing that cars would provide easier access to the ways of the world. Their plain clothing styles have earned them the name "Plain People".
Their separation from the rest of society actually helps to strengthen their community. Amish children attend Amish one-room schoolhouses through the eighth grade. Amish worship services are held every other week in one of the member's homes. Socializing is an important part of Amish life.
The Amish have a strong sense of community spirit, and often come to the aid of those in need. Their barn raisings are a good example. Neighbors freely give of their time and their skills to help one another.
The Amish are generally private people and often find all the attention and curiosity about their lifestyle disturbing. They believe that the taking of photographs where someone is recognizable is forbidden by the Biblical prohibition against making any 'graven image'.
Once we arrived at hour hotel, the Eden Resort of Lancaster, we decided to just spend the rest of the day relaxing, and deciding where our adventures would take us the next few days. I will share those adventures with you during the rest of this week.
While the beach is still my favorite place in the entire world, I am so glad we decided to make this trip, and I look forward to exploring many other new places with my children in the future!