Eight years ago, a lady from my church introduced me to Clara, my Amish friend who lives in Sugarcreek, Ohio. Since we first met, Clara has been extremely helpful to me. I’ve asked her and her family all kinds of questions, and they’ve answered me openly and honestly. Clara has taken me around Holmes County and even given me a personal tour of her favorite places in Pinecraft. She’s been so kind and I couldn’t be more grateful to her for all of her help and advice.
But I have a feeling that years from now, when I tell people that I used to be an author, the things I will treasure most will have nothing to do with writing and everything to do with life! She’s quietly inspired me in so many ways!
Obviously, I am still a work in progress… but here are three things that I have learned from Clara and her family:
1) Forget about stereotypes.
I think it’s only natural for some people to look at a couple or a family in a buggy and feel that they know what they are like. Over and over again, I’ve discovered that the Amish community is as varied as any other group of people. I am so glad about that!
My Amish friends’ openness has inspired me to be more open, too. It’s even made me want to take the time to get to know more people around me-even if they’re not Amish. I’ve found myself chatting more often with strangers wherever I go. At the gas station, in the grocery store, at the gate when I’m about to board a plane, I now visit with people. I’ve started embracing our differences, and value that each of us has some special quality that is God-given.
2) Live in the moment.
I’ll never forget the time I asked for a tour of my Amish friend’s garden and we ended up looking at birds’ nests. After sharing that she and her husband had been spending much of their evenings outside, enjoying the summer warmth and sunshine, she gently reminded me never to take any day or season for granted. Now I find myself pausing more often and taking the time to appreciate my job, my family, and even lovely spring mornings.
3) A quiet faith is a beautiful thing.
This might just be the most important thing I’ve learned from my friendships with the Amish. No one has been preachy, but many Amish men and women have shown me how their beliefs have guided their lives. Their quiet, genuine faith humbles me. It inspires me, too! I believe it’s the reason I love to spend my days writing stories about the Amish. I’m imperfect and filled with flaws. But my faith is growing every day.
No, I’m still not close to being Amish! But I am inspired by what I’ve learned about their communities. Maybe I’ve even become a better person. I do know that I sincerely value my Amish friends.
And that, I think, is something that they would be pleased about.
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Shelley Shepard Gray lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. A busy wife and mother of two, she spends her days writing and keeping track of her two teenagers. Her two dogs keep her company when she writes in her basement. When not spending time with her family or writing, she serves on several committees in her church. Shelley enjoys writing about the Amish and visits Amish communities several times a year.
Her latest book, A Daughter’s Dream, is available now!
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