Words from Walter…
You may not have noticed that I was “gone” for two weeks… fortunately, the site doesn’t seem to have suffered much. Technology allowed for some continued maintenance and the posting of your events at just a slightly slower pace than usual.Speaking of pace, an important part of this vacation was spent in the Lancaster Pennsylvania area—also called “Amish Country.” When we lived closer to the area, we spent a good deal of time visiting there. It was good to be back after a ten year absence.
We discovered the truth in the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” While there were some obvious changes to the area—it was equally obvious that many things have not changed. We have always avoided the heavily trafficked tourist areas and never shared the perspective that Amish folks are a tourist attraction. We’ve always thought of ourselves as their guests when visiting.
Shortly after arriving, we found ourselves a bit confused regarding the location of our hotel. I stopped at the Welcome Center and met “Tom” who began his affable help with “Well, the first thing ya gotta do is turn off your GPS.” His humorous advice actually became a running theme for our stay. The fact was I am familiar with the area. Yes, things have changed. But it didn’t take long to feel at home again once I turned off the GPS and started noticing my surroundings.
The irony didn’t escape me—technology has changed a lot over that ten year period. My Amish friends not so much so. Being among them provided an opportunity to consider how much technology has changed habits and life in general.
That, by the way, is something the Amish are particularly good at—they carefully consider adapting or not adapting technology based on how it will impact them as individuals, families and a community. We could learn a thing or two from them.
A GPS is no substitute for a sense of direction and map reading skills. My friend at the Welcome Center pointed out that some of the best places in the area don’t have GPS coordinates. He also understands that sometimes the journey is equal to the destination and encourages travellers to learn that lesson.
As most know, Old Order Amish still travel by horse and buggy. We passed and were passed by many and I didn’t see one GPS on a buggy dashboard, although I’m quite sure some of the horses are able to find their way home without much help from the driver. I would challenge Grangers with this question: are the Amish actually deprived of something that important? Or are we that much better off because we have them?
I believe that one of the catastrophes of this generation is the failure to use technology deliberately and selectively.
Consider this, from the Overseer’s charge during the Fifth Degree. (Every Patron) should also carefully observe and record all changes and accidents, helps and hindrances that attend each stage of growth. And when the experiment is completed, he should as carefully note all particulars pertaining to the results obtained. This will enable him to instruct others, and will suggest many valuable hints for future use.
Our forefathers were, of course, speaking of the farmer and his crops. Today’s farmer might record information using his or her smart phone, but the act of observing and recording change… thinking critically about the factors that affect “growth” and development… being aware of causes, correlations, and effects… these are no less important in the growth of technology than they are in the growth of crops. Should we grow soybeans? We can, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. In the same way, that we can use technology doesn’t always mean we should.
Sometimes ya gotta turn off the GPS (smart phone, computer). There may come a day when the roster includes GPS coordinates for every Grange Hall, but it’s not here yet. That may not be a bad thing. In the meantime, engage your brain and enjoy the journey—just don’t give up the decisions of what turns you’re going to make and how far down the road you’ll travel.
(For a contrast between a nine year old Amish farmstand cashier and teen age restaurant server, read “Making Change.”)