“… do not grow weary in doing good.” (I Thessalonians 3:13, ESV)
Yesterday, we had an adventure.
That is not just code for “get lost and waste gas.” I’ve written before that one way I stretch my family’s food budget is to shop surplus/salvage stores. These are often run by Amish or Mennonite families. I’ve missed these stores now that we are in the big city. I’ve also missed my Amish dairy that sold raw milk, my Amish produce stand that sold organic fruits and veggies, and my Amish source for grass-fed meats and cage-free eggs. I also kind of missed the Amish. While I try not to romanticize the Amish life– they’re human like the rest of us, and a dite prone to legalism– there is a lot I admire about them, and the Amish we’ve interacted with have always been kind, warm, and friendly.
Looking online for discount groceries store, I learned that there was a very large Amish settlement with lots of these stores in Ohio. Ohio itself isn’t far from us, but the Amish settlement ended up being two hours away! We loaded up Goblet of Fire in the CD player and lots of snacks and water bottles, and we were off.
When we got there, I knew right away something was off. Either the Amish here had a completely different work ethic than the Amish in Pennsylvania, or it was some sort of holiday or celebration. There were a lot of Amish buggies out and small groups walking. This thrilled the twins, who kept pointed at the horses and yelling “BAAAAA! BAAAAAA!” but it confused me. The first store we stopped at had a sign that said “Closed for the day.”
On the way to the second store, we passed a farm with large tables set out up front as well as a volleyball net and some cornhole targets. Then as we crested a hill, what can only be described as a battalion of Amish were coming right at us. Walking in straight rows, the women wore simple powder blue dresses with pure white aprons and crisp white kapps. The men were in black, as usual, but with white shirts and black hats rather than straw. It was a wedding.
There were actually two weddings and one funeral that we saw that day. Thankfully, the rest of the stores were open so we hadn’t made the two hour trip in vain. They were a lot different than the ones “back home” too, which were more like regular grocery stores. We must have stopped at 8 different small shops, and the prices were wonderful. Newman-ohs for 50 cents, Arrowhead Mills flour for 50-75 cents. It was awesome. None of the stores sold produce, dairy, meat, or eggs, but there were lots of side-of-the-road stands along the way. And in between, the kids had great fun waving to the Amish, who always waved back with a smile.
At one stop, several Amish women and men were sitting out on a porch, visiting and drinking tall glasses of iced tea. “They’re not so different than we are, Mom,” said my oldest. Always a good lesson to learn.
Our adventure took a sad turn when we rounded a corner and came upon a buggy with the horse collapsed on the ground. Two women and their children stood behind the buggy, looking hot and worried. The two men struggled to help the horse, but you could tell it was hopeless. The poor animal struggled just to lay its head down, and its poor neck was so floppy it couldn’t even do that. I pulled over, rolled down the window, and asked if I could do anything to help.
Declining my offer for a phone– “she’s dead, there’s nothing we can do”– they instead asked if I would give them a ride about a mile down the road to the funeral they were headed to. Now, I have a big old Econoline van, but pretty much every seat is spoken for. I had one spare official seat, because my husband wasn’t with me. So (and this is the part where you might want to start reading if you’re really fussy about car seats) I sent my three oldest boys to the trunk, which is large because our van used to be an airline shuttle. The two women got in their seats, each women holding a child. A third child sat in Daniel’s car seat. Another women climbed in next to me in the passenger seat. I didn’t even know where she came from! Two men climbed in the back with my boys, carrying their reigns and bridle. It took less than two minutes to drive them down the road. Normally, I am fairly fussy about car seat usage, but in this case it was less than a mile down a back country road with no traffic and I felt my duty towards my sisters and brothers who had just suffered a loss on a hot day trumped my duty to the law.
After we dropped them off and the children were all safely back in their seats, we had some interesting conversations. Was it wrong that it felt good to help people? And why is it that helping the Amish seemed so much like an adventure? And then came the biggest question– why was it that it was so easy to help strangers, but we’re so reluctant to love and serve one another sometimes?
Heady topics on a back country road.
We grabbed a snack and headed home, having spent less than $100 and our trunk full of groceries, but most importantly, a new resolve in our hearts to not grow weary of doing good.