By Bruce Stambaugh
Once the floodwaters of the historic July 1969 flood had receded, the residents of Killbuck, Ohio were in shock. Homes and businesses were either destroyed or severely damaged by the record high water levels. Townspeople were ready to give up, the cleanup looked so daunting.
Then something amazing and unexpected happened. Scores of Amish and Mennonites arrived from the eastern section of the county, home to the world’s largest Amish population, to help. No one had asked them to come. They just showed up.
The volunteers waded in and did the absolute hardest, dirtiest jobs, clearing out mud and muck with no complaints. They did it all out of a basic foundation of thankfulness.
Helping in times of need affords the Amish a method of connecting with the community. It is their personal and active way of expressing their appreciation for community and country, and the cherished ability to worship freely.
Amish do not normally participate in organized governmental positions. They do not take oaths, which such positions often require. Consequently, when opportunities to assist others arise, the Amish respond.
The Amish do not always wait for disaster to strike either. They are proactive in helping the less fortunate.
Donating blood is one of those opportunities. It’s not unusual for a local blood drive to collect 100 or more units every 56 days.
The Amish also show their thankfulness by helping with numerous annual benefit auctions that are held locally. A short list would include The Rainbow of Hope auction, The Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale, the Holmes County Home and the Holmes County Training Center.
Supporting such causes is borne of a two-fold purpose for the Amish. They recognize the importance to help those who have particular needs, and they also accept that they could possibly be in that situation themselves. They are grateful for whatever happens.
To briefly identify the purpose of the aforementioned benefits helps to understand the depth and breadth of the Amish aid. Funds from the Rainbow of Hope auction assist children with major medical bills. The Relief Sale raises funds for worldwide projects under the direction of Mennonite Central Committee.
Amish even travel far from their geographic area to put their faith into action. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, scores of Amish assisted in the Gulf States cleanup and reconstruction. So many helped, in fact, that Mennonite Disaster Service set up an Amish only camp where the volunteers could live according to their normal lives without the influence of distractions like television and the Internet.
Locally, the auctions for the county home and the Training Center raise operating funds. The county home has some Amish residents, and Amish make up a good percentage of the population at the Training Center, which works with developmentally challenged students and adults.
Another way of contributing to the common good for some Amish is to join the local volunteer fire department. Several area departments have Amish on their rosters as firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
True to their desire for modesty, the Amish want no recognition or publicity for their kind efforts. Their satisfaction comes from the simple act and ability to help others.
Of course, the iconic images of Amish helping at a barn raising are conjured up as the ideal way to help their neighbor. But their generous participation in the community and world at large clearly shows that the Amish think and act out of thankfulness far beyond their own immediate area.
To be sure, most Amish families embrace Thanksgiving as a day of joyous celebration of community, bountifulness and life itself. Even then many Amish approach the day piously, fasting in the morning prior to the feast that includes all the traditional trimmings.
The Amish mark Thanksgiving Day as a pinnacle to a lifestyle of serving. Fittingly, they would be too modest to acknowledge that fact.
This article appears in the November 2011 edition of Ohio’s Amish Country magazine.