Amish Father’s Motivation for Mercy

AbramAn Amish man in Ohio, whose ten year old daughter as molested by another Amish man, asked the judge not to send the perpetrator to prison; the community was getting him help when he was arrested. (Article) Why would a father do that? I’m a Christian, so I believe that repentance and forgiveness are real and powerful and people can change. On the other hand, there should be consequences for wrong done, accountability for the man who has repented, and protection for the victim.

I tried to put myself in the Amish father’s shoes to understand why he would defend his daughter’s molester. Amish communities are tightly knit and prefer to handle their affairs themselves. It would be difficult to turn one of their own over to the outside world, especially to jail. The perpetrator is probably someone the father grew up with and chances are very good that their families are connected either by blood or by marriage. If I believed that the Amish church’s discipline and help from some program would turn him around, I might be merciful too.

I can’t help but think about his daughter. How does she feel about her father’s plea to the judge for mercy? Perhaps she needs closure, needs to see justice done and her molester punished.  Perhaps she just wants the situation to go away so she can return to a feeling of normalcy. Perhaps those two things go hand in hand.

The writer in me can’t help but start plotting a novel based on this situation, as perverse as it may sound to want to turn someone’s pain into fiction. But that’s what I love about writing novels; you can get into people’s heads, albeit imaginary versions of them, and see life from a different perspective. The point is not ‘should the father defend his daughter’s molester’ but ‘why is he motivated to do so?’ When you write, you can wrestle with difficult situations, exploring all sides of an issue,  and then wrap up the discussion with a satisfying happy ending; an ideal world of your own making.

The Secret to Conversing With the Amish

10422457165_787637227e_oI write Amish romance novels, so I find it helpful to speak with Amish and former Amish folks when I can. I’m lucky enough to live near a good sized Amish population, so they pop up regularly as I go about my errands.

At first I was very nervous about striking up a conversation with an Amish person. I settled for observing them whenever I ran into them at Spence’s (our local bazaar) or Walmart or the chiropractor. Ah, the (hopefully) subtle art of gathering details while trying not to stare!

I’ve seen Amish women buying dog food and paper towels at Walmart. I’ve seen a boy stand behind his mother in line at the grocery store holding a candle – her Christmas present – and his money behind his back. I’ve seen Amish men and women serving food to the public at Spence’s food court, making the same faces that Englishers do when a customer changes her order three times in under a minute.

As I observed the Amish, I had a profound yet almost silly realization: Amish people are people. They have the same human strengths and flaws as myself and the rest of humanity. They are not a new species that need to “figured out” before a conversation can commence. The secret to conversing with the Amish is to approach them the way I would like to be approached by a stranger: not with gawking or twenty questions about my beliefs and background, but with respect and a smile.

So I comment on the weather, I compliment their dress or their glasses, and I wave to their children as our grocery carts pass in the aisle. I still take feverish mental notes for later use in a novel, but I’m more relaxed now about interacting with the Amish, human to human.

Amish Bazaar Purse (Flash Fiction)

spence

(I have a favor to ask: after you read this, can you please describe Matthew in one or two words? I want to see if my idea of him is coming across clearly. He’s a character I’m considering for my next Amish novel. Thanks!)

Matthew straightened his straw hat and plunged through the crowd with the purse of Abram’s Hannah clutched in his hand. It was just the little change purse she used on bazaar days, but she’d be missing it soon nonetheless.

Abram’s wife Hannah was ten yards ahead, her white kapp and sea green dress just visible through the throng of shoulders as she made a beeline for the door closest to the hot pretzel stand. He had to catch her before she reached it.

Spence’s Bazaar consisted of three large buildings arranged like three sides of a square, with the fourth side open to the gravel parking lot. The middle of the square was filled with rows of merchandise up for auction. Amish and English alike meandered along the rows, stood chatting in groups, or power walked with purpose through the crowd toward one building or another. Matthew was plowing through with purpose.

Near the door, Matthew’s cousin Melvin stood beside a piglet in a wagon. Several children were crouched around it petting the piglet and their mothers hovered nearby gossiping. Melvin was writing on a clipboard; probably taking orders for pork for when the piglet reached butchering size. Matthew didn’t see Melvin’s steady girlfriend Candace anywhere. Pretty, pretty Candy; Matthew had almost had a date with her before Melvin swooped in.

Matthew circumvented the wagon, barely acknowledging his cousin’s wave, and stumbled over the wagon’s handle which lay prostrate on the gravel. He steadied himself and blushed. At least, he hoped he was blushing. Dozens of eyes were on him and word would spread through the Amish community.

He caught Hannah’s arm just as she was reaching for the door to the food court building. Slightly winded and favoring one foot, Matthew handed her the purse and smiled away her gratitude. It was nothing, really. A good deed so small that it didn’t deserve such praise.

He glanced at a group of young Amish women eating ice cream at a picnic table not far from the door. Pretty Abigail Zolstof was among them. Matthew smiled to himself; she had seen the whole thing.