Recently, I once again saw my Amish acquaintance "Sarah" and had a conversation with her about the economy. I asked her if the Amish were likely to feel the impact of the economic problems in the wider world or if they were insulated from that shock.
At first, she didn't know what I meant, but as we talked it became clear that the Amish were worried about the larger economy. Those who own stores or businesses are bracing for a downturn in business. The community may have to bail out some members who have gotten too far into bank debt. Some in the community fear that "our people" (the non-Amish) will steal from them if we have no jobs or money.
I told her that perhaps what the Amish own are not the first things thieves would desire, but she didn't seem convinced.
On a lighter note, Sarah showed me the apples she was drying over the wood stove in her living. Her living room is just like her dining room, except it doesn't have a long table or a sink. It was evening, and she turned on the kerosene lamp, which dimly lit a part of the the room. As for the apples, she had cut them up and placed the slices in a wooden box with many flat drawers. This box fits over the woodstove. The apples stand in the heat for about 48 hours, at which point they are transferred to jars.
Sarah also showed me the beautiful quilt she is making, and the stacks of wooden benches piled against one wall. She said they were used for the Sunday meeting for worship, which was held recently at her house. Tweny-eight families attend and most are young, with lots of children, she said.
Sarah is the kindest and gentlest of people. When I leave her house, I have to remind myself that she and her surroundings are real. She seems so perfectly conformed to a storybook image of the Amish, as does her house. Yet, it's real. Then, I wonder, as I drive along her rutty driveway back to the real world, how do I know I'm not imagining all this, because it is all so perfectly how I might imagine the Amish? I ponder the story of the Chinese philosopher who woke up from a dream of being a butterfly and wondered if he were a man dreaming of being a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming of being a man. I remember, in the end, though, that there is enough trouble and vexation in the world, even here in the hinterlands, to convince me that this is real life, Amish and all.