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For the past thirty years Ella and I have had a favourite Amish family from whom we buy our extra-large brown eggs. As a student of people it has been very interesting to study the family unit.

In the Putnam area a small group of families make their homes and livelihood from their family farms. You can usually identify the homesteads easily because there are no hydro lines connected to the aluminum sided homes. Crackling wood stoves supply the heat to warm the house and cook the delicious apple pies. No bedroom blinds to block out the rays from the stars or moon

Imagine a life without modern electrical appliances: there are no microwave ovens to nuke your food, no land/cell phones, no central air conditioning or fans to help erase the sweat from their brow on a hot humid day. An open window allows the breeze . No television and computers, daily newspapers and radio news reports to infringe on their simple way of life. Horse and buggies and walking are the principle mode of travel.

The families are quite large with 6-10 children per family often the norm. Everyone seems to have a purpose in life. Mom and the girls take care of the laundry on Mondays and cook/bake the food for the men who work in the fields and tend to the animals and crops. They dress in comfortable modest clothes suited to their life style. Imagine a home without mirrors to check out your clothes and hairdo. The beautiful voices of the females seem to float out the open windows of the kitchen when they are making delicious homemade jams and pies and my favourite chocolate chip cookies.

The children attend school until the age of 15 learning to read, write and the history of their heritage in order that they can carry on their Germanic like customs and language.

You can see the children walking to and from their school rain or shine with their colourful painted lunch pails in their hands. The older brothers and sisters mind the young ones to keep them safe from the speeding cars and trucks.

I found it very interesting that you rarely see a youngster crying or unhappy with their lives. Give them a large rubber ball and a stick and you can watch them playing base ball after supper. Every child has a turn and their laughter is contagious.

The infant boys & girls are dressed in a skirt like outfits that makes it easy for them to be cared for. You can often see adolescent boys taking their younger siblings for a walk in a wooden wagon around the homestead after supper .

Gas lights glow after dark and the family usually goes to bed after prayers and arise early at sunset to sit down for a family hearty, healthy natural breakfast of fresh unpasteurized milk and steaming bowls of porridge and Maple Syrup.

Children are quietly counselled by their parents to co-operate with the family code-of-contact. But if after due process the talk doesnít work then mom or dad with tears in their eyes along with a sense of love to make their children better will physically paddle their errant children.

Drug, alcohol, suicide problems of our modern day society are not consistent with the Amish way of life.

The Amish family unit stays together: divorce and separation are not part of the equation. Women and men appreciate who they are and understand their roles early in life and seem happy and content with their lives. No diamonds, fancy cars or fashions are needed to be happy. The love of your family and a sense of community are paramount in the lives of Amish families.

I find it comforting that the old people are not sent off to senior citizen homes by their children to live out the rest of their lives. Every one has a sense of self worth and belonging. The youngest son inherits the family farm along with the duty to take care of his parentís needs. The Amish do not have OHIP cards to help defray the costs of medical care. Funds are allocated by the community on a needs basis. Chiropractors are appreciated for their hands on approach to medicine.

Mary, an Amish mother, of ten children told me that: " she is happy with her life. Hard work, love of family and a sense of community along with daily prayers to God are the pillars in her life." Her husband, Tobias, the patriarch of the family, is a great role model to his sons by teaching his skills in wood working, farming and barn raising.

My daughter, Sarah, often voices her opinions that if given the choice I would have opted to live a Amish way of life. I too enjoy the simple ways but I am not able/willing to give up the amenities that make my life a little easier.

The sages teach us that: " those who have less seem to enjoy it a lot more." Perhaps we can learn lessons of the way of life set by our Amish neighbours?

"Most people look at things as they are and wonder why. I dream of things that never were and ask: Why not?"

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com