If there’s one valuable life skill I learned from my grandparents it’s that a person’s worth is not determined by their success as it is commonly measured by the world, but rather, their value to society should instead be judged in more meaningful ways.
Abraham Lincoln said “Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing”. There is a perception of the Amish community in today’s pop culture that is built around “reality” television shows. In these portrayals, my relatives are cast as naïve, ignorant and foolish. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to take you beyond the mythical shadow of the Amish people which has permeated our TV screens and the internet, to the “tree” with deep roots of character that I love and appreciate.
As the sun rises over an Amish household, there has already been much activity. My Grussdaudy & Grussmommy were always up early, preparing for the day. I remember when I spent the night at their house and set the (obnoxiously loud, tick-tocking) Big Ben alarm clock which sat on the little nightstand by the antique guest bed in which I was sleeping, for 6:30 AM. I was so excited to wake up early and help Grussmommy make breakfast for Grussdaudy before he headed out to his wood shop. But when I woke up and made my way down the stairs, Grussmommy was washing dishes and Grussdaudy was already out the door!
As the day progressed, there was never a lack of activity. My grandfathers worked diligently at their respective businesses – Grussdaudy in cabinet making, and Grandpa on his farm and other enterprises. They took the responsibility of caring for their families very seriously.
When I was at either of their homes, I usually spent most of the day helping my grandmothers. (Or better stated, I liked to believe I was helping them, and my Grandmothers were gracious enough to let me think it.) One of the chores I helped Grussmommy with was washing clothes. We used an old-fashioned wringer washer, and then used clothespins stored in her homemade bag to hang the clean clothes on the line to dry. Grussmommy was a small woman, slender and sweet as could be, but very robust. Three things I loved most about her were the gentle smile which constantly graced her face, her kind blue eyes, and her small but strong hands that continuously stayed busy.
My Grandma loved working outdoors, and we spent countless hours working together in the garden, the yard, or doing projects around the farm. The Amish take great pleasure in creating beautiful grounds, and neither of my grandmothers were an exception to the rule.
Both my grandmothers were extremely active, with not an ounce of laziness to be found in their body! They found deep satisfaction in loving and serving their family and community well, and seemed never to tire of cooking, cleaning, gardening, canning, preserving, organizing, sewing, quilting, caring for those in need…well the list goes on and on! Both of them were talented seamstresses. Grussmommy’s sewing machine was an old fashioned treadle variety, powered by the steady movement of her feet. What beautiful, practical skills my grandmothers possessed! I remember wishing there was a way to download the wealth of knowledge and life skills they carried, from their brain to mine.
My grandparents were extremely resourceful, and did things the “green” way before anyone ever made it the cool thing to do. Grussmommy was the master of repurposing things. I remember the way she washed plastic bread bags, and propped them up to dry and use again. All my grandparents stayed active until well advanced in years, and didn’t like to sit still during the week for any great length of time when there was work to be done.
The Amish are an industrious group of people. You can find small family enterprises scattered all over the counties where they live. My personal favorites are the roadside produce stands, where they sell delicious home-grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, flowers and fresh farm eggs. Their roadside businesses are a true treasure to the locals.
“If a man is called a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and Earth will pause to say, Here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I love this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. It expresses the way my Amish family handled their responsibilities. They worked hard. They persevered. They were industrious, cheerful and never idle. They displayed self control and diligence. They were resilient. And they lived their lives well, taking great satisfaction in doing whatever they set their hand to with all their might, and to the best of their ability. They had an outstanding work ethic.
You many never have heard of my grandparents before reading this blog post. They were humble, quiet people who never took the spotlight on any stage. But their lives were engrained with the stuff that matters. Honor, respect, courage, love, humility, peace, incredible resourcefulness and character. They could lay their head on their pillow at night knowing they had done their jobs well.
“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” ~Albert Einstein
My Amish family taught me lessons of Character and Integrity : the kind of skills that never go out of style and never fail to bring true success.
~ Justina Dee
Sun Sentinel – Amish Farmer’s Success “At a time when leading agricultural economists have declared the small commercial family farm a relic, Lancaster County`s 1,200 Amish farm families are thriving.”
And a few more quotes, just because I love them:
“The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability as opposed to resilience and hard work, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.” ~ Joshua Waitzkin
“To achieve what 1% of the worlds population has (Financial Freedom), you must be willing to do what only 1% dare to do..hard work and perseverance of highest order.”
~ Manoj Arora
“Thank God every morning when you get up, that you have something to do that day which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle never know.” ~Charles Kingsley
“Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” ~Sam Ewing
“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” ~Margaret Thatcher