“We already have.”

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It’s easy to mock and make jokes about people we don’t understand. I do – you may too. One of the subjects of my ridicule has been the Amish – and they are strange – by our standards.

C’mon! Horse drawn carts and little electricity? No television, computers, movies, nor internet – in 2008? Are they for real?

But today I know I can never again joke about these gentle people. Two things have changed my mind. One is an Amish tradition; one is an Amish tragedy.

Rumspringa is an Amish tradition more radical than any religious practice to which I’ve been exposed. When they’re around 15 or 16 years old, Amish kids are given a free pass to the outside world. They may smoke, drink, have sex, do drugs – pretty much anything non-Amish kids do. And not behind Amish parents’ backs. This is encouraged by elders so young people can make a critical decision in life: to be or not to be Amish.

What? Give teens with raging hormones a chance to run free and THEN decide if they want to be just plain Amish? Do you know anybody else who believes enough in his or her religion to allow kids that choice? I don’t. But most Amish families have this kind of faith – and four out of five of the kids return to the fold. Hmmm…..

The second Amish fact kicked me harder still.

On October 16, 2006, Charles Roberts, a mentally-ill milkman from Lancaster County, burst into an Amish schoolhouse. He terrorized and tied up 11 young girls and shot each of them before killing himself. Five of the girls died immediately. Many horrified parents arrived at the school within minutes. In anguish and confusion, they talked among themselves as the dead and dying were carried out of the small schoolhouse. And then a calm seemed to settle on the group.

A pushy TV reporter stuck a microphone into the face of a grieving father who had been told only moments before his own daughter was one of those murdered.

“Will you ever be able to forgive the killer?” the insensitive hack asked.

The father, who had tears streaming down his face, looked at the reporter, and smiled a gentle smile. His answer?

“We already have.”

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One Response to ““We already have.””

  1. amy says:

    Amish do not even fully grasp the concept of grudges.
    As noted in a local article about the families: “….[they] say they didnt make a sudden decision to forgive Roberts. The notion was already in their hearts, nurtured by their belief that as Jesus forgives them, so must they forgive others.”

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