United by purpose and priorities

sunny hillside
Sun and shadow.

By Bruce Stambaugh

At first, I was a bit taken aback when the Amish man asked me the question. Pointing to my business card, he wanted to know what the term “blogger” meant.

I tried to explain it verbally before a light went on in my head. I pulled out my iPhone and brought up my blog so Joe (not his real name) could see for himself. He was sincerely intrigued, and genuinely thankful for the first-hand explanation.

His world was dissimilar from mine. In the larger scope of things, however, we weren’t that different at all. In fact, we probably had more in common than we realized. I like to think that applies to most folks. We just need to set aside our biases, listen and look at what is before us.

With his question, we had connected. I had opened a curtain into my world that this inquisitive man would not have otherwise even known to pull back.

Then I realized the magic of the moment. He had just done the same for me.

I had driven a dozen miles south into the unglaciated hills and valleys of Holmes Co., Ohio to shoot some photos of one of the several products Joe makes.

Cameras and Amish usually don’t mix. However, I assured Joe that I respected his beliefs regarding not being personally photographed. I was there to capture the process of creating the shoulder yoke that he made for Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

In today’s hyper-suspicious world, Lehman’s customers had requested proof that Amish indeed make specific items and were not imported from some third-world country. The wooden yoke was one of them.

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I arrived early at Joe’s shop, a lesson I learned long ago from my prompt wife. Joe was ready for me and got right to work. He had all the production steps organized for me to photograph.

He trusted me to shoot only the materials, machines, and tools that he used. Out of respect for his beliefs, I was careful not to include his face in the photos. We moved smoothly from station to station.

In less than half an hour, Joe had taken raw wood and produced his useful yoke. I had to stay alert to keep up with him. Joe was that efficient and prepared.

I was mightily impressed with his skills. Only after we had finished the assignment did I realize the significance of his yoke product.

What he makes both eases a difficult job and provides more comfort for off-the-grid people everywhere. They sling the yoke onto their shoulders, which distributes the weight of the heavy items they have to carry.

If it’s two buckets of water, they balance on opposite ends of the yoke. It’s a simple method and old tradition. Joe’s skilled hands, which show the scars of his years of woodworking, help to make life a little easier for the yoke purchasers scattered across several states.

I couldn’t help but mentally compare the maker and the buyers of these yokes. Like Joe and his family, they probably don’t have electricity or any electronics like my smartphone to make life simpler for them.

Perhaps those who use the yoke ride a horse-drawn cart or raise livestock, too. Maybe they hang their laundry out to dry on a clothesline just like Joe’s wife.

Geography and cultures might separate us. Purpose and priorities unite us.


© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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