“You know,” a co-worker said as she turned toward me. “I was wondering something about you; do you think you got your work ethic from your Amish background?”
She and I had worked together for several months and she knew my background but she had never asked something so personal or specific before. Her question surprised me.
Responding with my usual candor, I laughed. “Of course I did. In fact I can still hear my mother’s voice telling me to doitrightforgoodnesssakes!” [pullquote]After all, doing is what keeps the world going ’round.[/pullquote]
“Well, okay, I can understand that then because I have Amish neighbors and they work hard. And a lot. They’re always doing something and it seems like you are too.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “It’s easy enough to give that impression when you don’t see me all the time. You don’t see the hours I spend reading or writing or knitting or crocheting but . . . “ I trailed off. “I guess even that is doing something, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is,” she smiled. “I meant do you ever just sit around watching TV or playing games or doing nothing at all.”
I countered with the argument that even watching TV or playing games was doing something.
“Well, yeah, but I meant something that isn’t productive,” she argued.
Laughing again, I said that I supposed it all depended on how you looked at it, but that no, I could not sit around doing nothing productive because it felt wrong somehow. For as long as I can remember, doing something was what kept the world going ‘round.
The Amish have a very good reason for always doing something. For them, doing something is a matter of survival because, by choice, they have labor-intensive lifestyles that equal those of people in developing countries.
Their transportation is the prehistoric horse-drawn carriage, both of which require food and upkeep. They do not pay for electricity to power labor-saving machines and appliances. They cannot go to Wal-Mart or Target and buy their clothing. They grow most of their own food. Then they preserve tons of whatever they grow. They raise cattle and poultry and then slaughter their own meats. They milk cows and drink milk out of glass jars instead of yellow plastic jugs.
So, yes, they are always doing something productive because that is the only way they can survive.
And yes, that is exactly how I was raised so that is why it seems as if I am always doing something.
But here’s the thing, Amish people have their do-nothing days too. They observe the Sabbath, not the Jewish Friday-sundown-to-Saturday-sundown, but the Judeo-Christian first-day-of-week Sabbath. They also have other ‘holy’ days built into their calendar where, like the Sabbath, the rigidly defined doing of nothing is strictly observed.
I am no longer Amish so do I observe the same regular days of doing nothing?
Not exactly. And therein lies the problem. Can I always do something for the rest of my life? Can anyone?