· Episode 9 ·
Summary: Tom Jennings had never been all that interested in the Old Order Amish. He figured he was about as curious of them as they were in him. Both he and the Amish lived in separate worlds and that was fine.
Then, after interacting with several individuals who were Amish, he changed. First, he was assigned to investigate someone stealing county dirt from a county ditch. The absurd assignment only got crazier as more and more Amish buggies arrived at the farmstead where he waited for further orders in his ill-fated investigation. As the deputy’s anxiety increased, the Amish outwardly appeared relatively calm.
During his wait, Jennings enjoyed meeting Rosannah Yoder and her father, Jacob Borntrager. Although the brief encounter was purely business, Jennings liked how the two were patient with him. He felt a desire to get to know them as individuals and to learn about their culture. What made them tick? he wondered. His unexpected inquisitiveness developed after this brief, though important, encounter.
When Mr. Borntrager invited Jennings to join the Amish gathering for a meal, he was more than ready. Though he was starving, it wasn’t the food that excited him. The invitation was important because it was a sign that despite his English clothes and military mustache, he wasn’t considered the enemy; he could become a friend, or more likely, a friendly acquaintance.
Unfortunately, due to an emergency assignment involving an Amish horse-and-wagon, the deputies were prevented from participating in the sit-down meal. When Jennings arrived at the nearby accident scene, he encountered more Amish. These Plain People, living just ten miles from Prairie Grove, Kansas (outside the little town of Humble), hadn’t asked for his help but he was there to do his duty.
Jennings felt forever changed because of Martin and Irene Schrock. They were the parents of the injured children who had been driving the horse-and-wagon when they were hit by a pick-up truck whose driver didn’t stop to offer assistance. It was the Schrock’s who shared with Jennings about why they, as members of the Old Order Amish, would not, could not, pursue criminal or civil charges against the hit-and-run driver.
At first, their beliefs and reasoning had been incomprehensible to the deputy sheriff. After all, Jennings’s mission, his professional life as a police officer, was based on enforcing the law; the Amish mission, on the other hand, was to accept God’s will and to offer forgiveness.
For the big deputy, the whole experience was a confusing and stressful encounter into another dimension. Earlier in the day, when he’d been waiting at the Amish farm and watching the steady procession of horse-and-buggies arrive, his confidence dissipated. For a few minutes he was the one outnumbered; he was the foreigner in another land.
For the first time, after the back-to-back patrol assignments involving the Amish, Tom felt like he had a glimpse at understanding group thinking.
Later, at home, Tom shared his day with his wife, Jesse.
Julia and Hannah were in bed for the night. Their parents, Tom and Jesse Jennings, watched the TV news. Tom attacked a bag of potato chips and dip. Jesse ate grapes. Occasionally, their phones would buzz and they would glance at messages.
“Today, for the first time, I had an opportunity to interact with an Amish family, beyond talking about the weather,” said Tom to his wife. “I learned something about their beliefs and I’d like to visit them again.”
“That’s great!” stated Jesse. “You’ve told me before about talking with Amish men. And I know you like those cute, young Amish girls who waitress while wearing pastel-colored dresses at Amanda’s Amish Kitchen. What was different about today?” she asked.
“Well, at the end of one crazy assignment, I got invited to a community meal. It never actually happened because we had to go to an accident, but the invitation made me feel accepted as a potential friend. Then, at the scene of the wreck, I learned why they don’t get involved with reporting crime.”
“I’ve read about that,” said Jesse. “It’s because they want to remain separate from the outside world, isn’t it?”
“That’s right, and it’s because they believe in forgiveness. They don’t want to prosecute a person. Instead, they leave it up to God.”
“So, they won’t help law enforcement solve a crime?” asked Jesse.
“I don’t know if they would help us catch a murderer or not. I would hope so. But today I learned from one family that they wouldn’t help us prosecute the hit-and-run driver who nearly killed their children when he ran into their horse-and-wagon. They don’t want restitution either.”
“That’s hard to believe,” said Jesse. “If someone hurt one of our girls, I’d want the person locked up for life. Just throw away the key.”
“Yeah, it sure makes me aware how differently we think about punishment,” said Tom. “My job is to catch ‘em. Their job, apparently, is to forgive them.”
“I wonder if they punish their children or not,” said Jesse. “They must do a pretty good job of parenting; I haven’t seen any Amish on the FBI’s ten most wanted list.”
Tom laughed. “Either have I. Maybe we can learn something from them. We’ve sure had problems lately with Hannah and Julia.”
“I don’t know if the girls fight more often than other children,” said Jesse, “but the part that’s disturbing to me is how long they can hold a grudge.”
“Yeah, they’re reluctant to forgive one another,” said Tom.
“And I don’t know why,” said Jesse. “We’ve raised them well.”
“We love them dearly; we’d do anything for them,” said Tom, “but it would be great to solve this riddle about not holding grudges.”
“I can google that again on my phone,” said Jesse, “but everyone seems to have a different opinion. You and I forgive one another, but we rarely argue. Maybe we need to fight more often and show the girls how we patch things up!” said Jesse as she laughed.
Tom crunched his last potato chip, then used his index finger to take one last swipe at the empty container of cream cheese with chili sauce dip. “We could take away their phones,” he said, seeking an easy answer, one that hadn’t worked previously.
“Your Amish friends must have a solution. I’ve heard they have church seven days a week. We could try that.”
“When would we work?” asked Tom, knowing Jesse wasn’t serious.
She continued. “They can’t take away phones from their children since they aren’t allowed to have them, and I don’t think they say to their teenage children, ‘Until you forgive your sister, you’re grounded. We’re taking away your horse-and-buggy privileges.”
Tom chuckled. “Well, they know something we don’t. Maybe it has to do with too much phone use or too much TV. You know how Julia gets when we tell her to turn off her phone at night.”
“Yeah,” agreed Jesse, “she told me last night she needs it as an alarm clock! When was the last time she got out of bed without me waking her up? She gets nervous with it on and she gets anxious with it off. Take your pick.”
“Well,” said Tom, “since she turned ten, I don’t think her head’s ever been clear from all the screen time. It could be a cause; I don’t know. It’s a different world than the one we grew up in, that’s for sure. We didn’t have a smart phone within reach twenty-four hours a day.”
“I have an idea,” said Tom. “We need to send our girls to Amish Camp! There wouldn’t be any technological distractions. Phones are left at home and there’s no TV. Instead, they can learn how to contribute to a working family farm, clean out some horse stalls and churn butter.”
“I know you’re joking,” said Jesse, “but it would be an opportunity for the girls. Maybe we can create something like that here at home without giving up electricity.”
“Agreed, let’s figure something out,” said Tom as he felt his phone vibrate. “We can learn about cutting back from too many electronics. I might be able to get some ideas from the Amish.”
“Good luck with that,” said Jesse. “I’ve heard they’re not too anxious to share about their customs. What would you say? Our life is bombarded with agitating media messages, can you help?”
“Well, I don’t think it can hurt to try. The Schrock’s are dairy farmers who sell extra milk and butter on the side. I can stop by and ask for some ideas. Anyways, we’re low on butter,” said Tom as he licked his lips.
“Okay, Tom, but remember the sergeants have been after you to focus on doing your job. You said the captain was upset about that assignment involving erosion of the garden soil.”
“Yeah, but after today I’m thinking I can do my job without worrying so much about my supervisors. Today, Hunter had a closer look at how one crackpot citizen complaint can create a bizarre situation for us, especially when you’re dealing with a closed community. I think the Amish can teach me something, but if they prefer not to explain a custom or belief, so be it.”
“Okay, honey, but don’t go Amish on me. I wouldn’t mind learning how to sew a quilt, but we agreed that two children were all we wanted,” said Jesse as she held back a smile.
“Yes, I remember,” said Tom, straight-faced, “although there’s a saying that things are cheaper by the dozen.”
Jesse held her silence and waited for him to assure her he was joking about any more children.
As Tom licked the grease and salt from the potato chip bag–which he had turned inside-out–he finally responded, “Agreed, lately, we’ve had our hands full enough with only two kids.”
To be continued.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!