For years my niece and I have shared book ideas as far as what we are each reading. We have a common love of all things homestead related; gardening, chickens, goats, sustainability practices, whole foods, fresh air, everything that is by and large directed towards a simple life.
This summer when she was home in Minnesota she mentioned to me the book called “Almost Amish”. So I’m reading a book that is taking the basic principles of the Amish lifestyle and applying them to a modern life and family. Growing up I knew of Amish people as being simple and isolated, living in their own backwoods and disconnected world. I saw them as people who were living 100 years ago instead of today and I couldn’t understand what would drive anyone to want to live this way. As time and adulthood has gone on, I have developed a different level of understanding for their world, work, practices, and now hold them in a level of admiration that was not available to me as a younger person.
Recently, I was sharing my insights with a friend of mine over coffee and it started to develop into a conversation about people and our perception of isolation.
My friend had recently attended a family gathering in a small community of her origin. She had not connected with some of these particular relatives for decades and so was thrilled to share her experiences and how excited she was to see some of her cousins after years. She was telling me about one particular cousin who lived by themselves, was single, didn’t have a cell phone, didn’t have cable television and spent his time largely, so it seemed, in isolation. He was a quiet, peaceful, observing fellow apparently of some stature, and when he needed to take care of something he did things in person. Which means when he had to go to the doctor he physically went to the doctor. He spends his time taking other people back-and-forth to various appointments. He has a car and is young enough and healthy enough to still drive, whereas many of his neighbors are elderly and can no longer drive themselves. He makes himself of service to his friends, his neighbors and his community by taking people back-and-forth to appointments, to go grocery shopping, to the far off mall in the neighboring city if they need something more specific that isn’t available in their small town. When he gets bored, he gets in his car and he goes to visit his friends or his neighbors or the occasional trip into the “big city” (a community of about 80,000). For medical appointments he often stops and visits with relatives he doesn’t get to see very often. Is he Amish? No, he is a man that is choosing very consciously and purposely the life that he lives. He isn’t caught up in what is happening on social media, he has no idea who the Kardashians are or what it is to be a social media influencer. He doesn’t watch television so he is not largely abreast of current events outside of what he reads in his local newspaper. He doesn’t text or zoom or FaceTime, he shows up in person. So while we were talking about this gentleman, my friend and I began to evolve our perception of isolation.
Many would see him as the isolated one, and yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Without question, he is the connected one.
Like him, it reminded me of the Amish people who spend their time connected with their neighbors, working alongside them, planting, harvesting, building, and repairing. About how they work in connection and community with one another sharing goods, and tools, and resources so that everyone has not only the tools but the help to be able to accomplish whatever needs doing.
As we spoke of isolation it was brought to our attention that indeed many of us are the isolated ones.
We sit behind our screens believing we are connected. We go to dinner with other people and sit on our phones. We attend family gatherings while we’re texting or checking our emails. We go on family vacations and spend our time making sure we’re caught up at work on emails and posting pictures on social media to make sure everyone else knows where we are and what we’re doing. Checking in with our co-workers often more than we’re checking in with our family in front of us. Now who’s isolated?
Be mindful of your isolation. Pay attention to where you withdraw yourself and go into a little world of your own held together by social media and screens and storylines and videos of people and places that are nowhere near where your feet and your body are sitting in the moment. Be where you are and be with those around you. Say hello to your neighbors, look into the eyes of your family members and your friends when you speak to them. Reach out and touch the hand of someone you love and tell them what they mean to you. True connection relies on the back of vulnerability. In order to be in connection with others we have to be willing to be vulnerable, or available (this word might make you feel better) to them which means we have to be willing to be our true selves. We have to show our heart and our spirit our sincerity because it comes through our touch, smile, eyes, and vibration.
There’s tremendous vulnerability and being connected. We are not designed to live in isolation, we are designed to live in tribe and community. For everything our modern technical world provides for us it often takes us out of our community and hides us in a place of being isolated in plain sight. Be available, be vulnerable, and be willing to lift your head, put the screen down and truly connect to the world around you. See others in their need and lend a hand. Greet your neighbors and actually want to know who and how they are. Share the load, and share your abundance.
Be in it. The gifts are great.
Let’s be almost Amish.
Forever the journey,