Last month, my husband and I went to Amish country for a quiet weekend getaway of riding our bikes, eating good food, and feeding my odd curiosity with the Amish and their way of life.
We rode our bikes on connector paths that are meant for buggies and bikes to get from town to town to avoid the busy road. As we passed Amish families on the path, my eyes widened like I had just seen aliens. We went to an Amish restaurant where non-Amish and Amish alike stood outside waiting for their tables.
My husband saw a young Amish couple sitting on a bench and told me we should go sit next to them. My heart started racing because yes, of course I want that! One of my biggest passions in life-- that I rarely get to enjoy-- is talking to people from other cultures. Although I was excited, I also am an introvert who gets nervous at the thought of just walking up to people and chatting.
As we talked with this couple, none of us made mention of our differences. We talked about the weather and riding bikes and how good the food is at the restaurant we were waiting to get a table at. My inner voice was telling me, "Don't ask about being Amish. Do NOT ask them if they like it or what it's like. Just listen and be normal."
And that's what I did. And it was so awesome to have a conversation with people who could not be more different than us, while uncovering how we're similar as well. Sidenote--this didn't stop me from being really dorky and overly friendly when I saw them again when they were seated at the table near us in the restaurant. I waved way too wildly for their sweet reserved nature, I'm sure.
We went to a winery in town and sat outside to listen to a live musician. As we sat in the perfect summer air and sipped wine, there were Amish families riding their bikes past on the adjacent road.
Again, I'm dorky, and I just can't help it, so I waved to them as they went by. It was one of those moments in life when things just seem to align and it's lovely. The musician was playing Tom Petty, I was there laughing with my husband for some rare alone time, and I was waving to Amish people who were waving back.
There is a lot of judgment in life. We do a lot to convince others we're right, or we bristle when others have lifestyles we don't understand. In that moment, I couldn't help but recognize the beauty in the existence of two totally different worlds in one space.
It's like the wave between us was a quiet recognition of, "I see you. I don't understand your world, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with it, but I see you."
Our divided society could use more of this, right? I'm not talking about being totally numb and blindly accepting everything without question. I'm talking about letting go of our snap judgments and just breathing and accepting we're not all going to walk on the same path.
We can be humble and curious about others on their paths, right? Maybe we can even stand to learn from each other if we're quiet long enough to listen.
I'm not trading in my wine, tank tops and modern conveniences to be Amish, the same way they're not trading in their time-honored family traditions and religion to be non-Amish. There's room for both of us, and there's beauty and merit in both paths.
The same is true of someone you just don't understand in your life. The same way you struggle to understand them is the same way, most likely, they are struggling to understand you, and there's no way around this. Why not be open to it?
I want to do better at this in my life and make sure my feet aren't so stubbornly planted in my ground that I miss out on learning about where others stand.
Letting go of judgment and embracing curiosity takes humility and patience, but I want more of this middle ground, where I'm sipping wine, waving at others who confuse me, and they wave back, as I confuse them, wanting to learn more.