“Better than counting your years is making your years count.” Amish proverb
During the bitter winter of 1882, a group of eleven from Roseto, Italy packed their bags and set sail for the New World. After arriving at Ellis Island, they made their way west to a little town in Pennsylvania. Soon, one group after another arrived from Italy. They bought land to farm on a rocky hillside and built closely clustered houses. They constructed a church in the center of town and named their tiny, self-sufficient haven “Roseto.”
Fast forward to the 1950s. A physician named Stewart Wolf heard something unique about Roseto, Pennsylvania: the citizens died of old age. Nothing else.
That information piqued Wolf’s curiosity! Heart disease was epidemic in the United States—the number one killer of men under the age of sixty-five. Skeptical, Wolf started to investigate this claim. He studied death certificates. He analyzed physicians’ records. He took medical histories and constructed family genealogies. He studied dietary practices and genetic factors. In Roseto, Wolf found no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction and very little crime. No one on welfare. No one with ulcers. But he couldn’t figure out what contributed to such unusual well-being for an entire town.
So Wolf studied the town’s social structures. Many homes had three generations living under one roof. Grandparents were valued members of the family. There was a quiet pressure to avoid ostentatious wealth. Instead, the Rosetans lent a helping hand to others in need. The church was the center of family life and created a unifying, calming effect on the town. Wolf concluded that community had a great deal to do with an individual’s life span and quality of life. This was radical thinking for the 1950s medical community. Conventional wisdom attributed life span to genes, diet, and exercise.
As I read about the Rosetans in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success (Little, Brown), I realized that their secret to well-being was a strong emphasis on faith, family, and community. Those three pillars insulated them from much of the ills of the world.
Lands sakes! I could have been reading about the Old Order Amish. The fastest growing population in North America, the Amish have held strong to enduring traditions for over four hundred years. They have a much lower rate of heart disease than do average Americans. Lower depression rates, lower cancer rates. They maintain one of the strongest and most stable family systems in our country. The elderly are highly esteemed, cared for in the home. Over 85 to 90% of the youth remain in the church, choosing baptism as young adults. The Amish, like the Rosetans, seem to be doing something right.
So, should we all go Amish and give up our cars and microwaves? Should we move to Roseto, Pennsylvania and take up Italian? Of course not! But there’s so much we can learn from their example.
Faith, family, community. Those pillars can be our pillars. Our churches, our children and our aging parents, our neighborhoods.
Enter to win a copy of Amish Values for Your Family below & stop by Suzanne’s blog for the 12 Days of Christmas giveaway!
*Originally posted at ChristianPost.com
Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of Amish fiction and non-fiction, and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. The Search won a 2012 Carol Award. The Waiting was a finalist for a 2011 Christy Award. The Choice was a finalist for a 2011 Carol Award. The Letters is a finalist for a Christian Retailing 2014 Best Award. Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World and Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life were both finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year (2010, 2011). Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She travels back east a couple of times each year for research.
Suzanne’s latest release, The Imposter, is now available!
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