Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Simpler Time...In the 21st Century

Tonight after a college fair I was driving down Junction C off Route 5 heading from Versailles to Jefferson City. The roads are full of hills and sharp turns. It was dark, and it was raining. As I was cruising along doing the speed limit (one of the first times this travel season) mainly because of the unfamiliar territory, a few hundred yards away I see distant red flashing lights. Not sure if I was approaching an intersection or if the lights I saw were even on the same road I was on, I turned on my high beams to get a better perspective of my surroundings. Farmland. Corn fields. Cows. Barns. A Church. That's all. No sign of civilization. No other cars on the road. I looked for the flashing lights again and saw nothing. I sat up a little straighter in the driver's seat. Clutched the steering wheel tight and said a little prayer.

Now, maybe I've watched way too many episodes of LOST but I was more than just a little frightened. As I began to rationalize the lights I supposedly saw my fears began to fade away. I accelerated up the hill beginning to gain speed and at peace with my surroundings, the lights appeared again. This time right smack dap in front of me. Terrified, I slammed on my breaks coming to an almost screeching stop. Literally, I went from 70 mph to 20 in ten seconds. Before me was one of the strangest things I'd ever seen. AND I'M FROM MISSOURI.

Slowly I passed a horse drawn buggy and quickly resumed my normal speed. I thought to myself how odd it was to see a horse and buggy on a windy, country road. The only places I'd ever seen one before was in downtown St. Louis, downtown St. Charles and at Tilis Park during the Christmas season. However, those were for pure entertainment purposes not the primary mode of transportation. Before I traveled another two miles I passed three THREE more buggies. It was then that it hit me. I'm in AMISH country. That scared the bejeebus out of me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I didn't really think Amish people existed. I mean, I learned about them in seventh grade social studies but thought that was something that was common back in the Little House on the Prarie Days. You know, when there were no other options.

After contemplating what I had witnessed, I became intrigued. As soon as got back to my hotel room I googled Amish people in Missouri and came across the most interesting article. I had no idea that the Amish community is one that is thriving. Nor did I know that Missouri had a high population of Amish communities. And guess what...all of those communities are in my territory. I better get accustomed to the horse and buggy transportation. I wonder if they were cursing me in their yiddish dialect as I sped past in my Trailblazer out of shear terror. I'm a city girl in the boonies. And it's dark.

I don't mean to sound judgmental, but I just don't quite understand the sanction of the Amish. Honestly, I'm more baffled about their existence than judging. I mean no electricity. I couldn't live without my TiVo. Is modern technology really that bad? But to them, they see no good in it. I've never been one to interpret the Bible literally. I'm Catholic and all and we look for spiritual guidance through the gospels not day to day directives. I understand metaphors and the Bible contains MANY. I grasp the principles and inspiration and live my life in a fashion that God has intended. I do not believe Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Simply, it's a parable to teach a lesson. Just as a lot of the Bible is.

Children in the Amish community receive formal education in Amish run schools until eighth grade. That's it. Mind-boggling. Especially since I'm an advocate for higher ed and all.

I do respect their beliefs and ambitions. They are pursuing what they have been taught is the way to the eternal paradise. Each religion and community views the afterlife differently. I'm a believer that no one religion will take you straight to the pearly gates. Every one has their beliefs and as long as you belief, put God first and follow his commandments, you are in okay shape when your time comes.

I am very intrigued with the lives of the "Plain People" and hope to incorporate my quest for knowledge into a supplemental lesson for Grace. This weekend there is a tour scheduled for the original Log Cabin in my home town. It has been rehabbed but is supposed to reflect what life was like in the earliest days of establishment in our small community. Although it is not Amish, I think it's a great lesson to teach Grace how people lived in our town in the 1800's. I think she will be just as amazed as I on how little it really takes to survive: God, family and a lot of love.