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Like all politics, the economy is local. Regardless of what is happening in Congress, people have to feed their families, pay the mortgage and plan for the future. Many are feeling confused, afraid and hopeless during these troubling times. Some of that anxiety is rational, some is based on the irresponsible fear-mongering of the left which is much like a spoiled child holding his breath during a tantrum…it looks more threatening than it is. Regardless of the source of fear, it is not a good way to feel, it robs us of peace and kills confidence.
One community of Americans are not only serving this economy, but actually continue to thrive during it. The Amish have in place ideals, goals, and beliefs that saving and planning for hard times is part of life. They do not question that the rainy day will come. They understand that the history of man is filled with hard times and scarcity. Lorilee Craker, in her new book, Money Secrets of the Amish, Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving, echoes the message of Dave Ramsey in his recent webcast about personal economic recovery, www.thegreatrecovery.com in which he challenges each of us to take control of our own recovery.
While sewing our own clothes, living without electricity and other modern conveniences might not be feasible or desirable for most of us Englishers, as the Amish call anyone not Amish, the core values and simple principles of the Amish economic system are beautiful in their simplicity. Every dollar we do not spend is a dollar we save. It is a mindset rooted in the religious and cultural beliefs of these peaceful people. They look past immediate gratification to long-term goals. They live by the habits of ”use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without”. They are the original paragons of “repurpose, recycle and reuse”. Amish very rarely buy anything new. They invent it, make it, barter for it, or buy it second hand.
One couple in the book explained that they rented a farm for twenty years while raising thirteen children and managed to save over $400,000 toward the purchase of their own farm..for their children to inherit. They discuss this reluctantly lest they be perceived as boasting. Pride is shameful and they give all glory to God for their provision. They are true followers of “God’s economic plan”. Having never been tainted by commercials, advertising and other spoiled children, the Amish children are calm, helpful and content. This is not to say they don’t want things, they do, it is the human condition to want things, especially the immature. But they learn as babies that their wants will not kill them and they are not entitled to everything they want. Consequently, they appreciate and take care of what they receive in ways that would break the heart of those of us who are accustomed to meeting our children’s every whim.
At Christmas, Craker explains, the children receive one gift and that is usually something they need; an item of clothing, a tool, a book. Small children receive a handmade toy. One child who was celebrating her 10th birthday, received a coloring book. As a special treat, the family had homemade ice cream after supper. Just ice cream. Craker herself is Mennonite, which is similar to the Amish, once having been part of one movement. She lives a modern life but she understands the traditions and psyche of the Amish. Her book is funny and her unique knowledge of Amish life makes her reporting all the more contextual for the reader. Her interviews with the leadership of Amish communities in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, their bankers, their followers and those who know them, are both entertaining and insightful. One cannot help but examine her own values as the facts unfold about these people and their ideas about self-sufficiency and sharing. There is no welfare among the Amish. They take Jesus’ admonition to “love your brother” to heart.
Through reading this book, one finds oneself wishing for a way to get off the merry-go-round of materialism and experience the peace of money in the bank.