The Amish have an extraordinary way of forming friendships, says author and former Amish friend Mark W. Nye.
And it’s not just with their children.
“Amish friendship is an integral part of our lives and a vital part of the fabric of our society,” says Nye, a professor of sociology at Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota.
“This is why, even in the midst of a crisis, we can find time to get together and talk about a wide variety of things.”
The Amishes have an amazing way of formulating friendships that are not just social and political.
And they’re very good at it.
A study by the University of Washington and Amish Friendship Association found that the Amish, who are among the largest religious communities in the United States, are among only two religious groups to have a “strong, deep, and lasting bond.”
The other is Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious sect based in Wisconsin.
And Amish friendship extends to their own children, too.
“It’s not a question of, ‘We have a problem, let’s find some solution,’ or ‘Let’s go to some church,'” says Nee.
“The question is, ‘Do we have a good solution?'”
Nye was raised Amish and moved to the U.S. at the age of 11.
His first memories of Amish people were of watching them run around in the fields, chasing rabbits, and working in the garden.
“I saw the way they worked,” he says.
“They were very disciplined and very organized, and it was really hard to be out and about.”
Nye says his family wasn’t always so observant.
“We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to get outside and play,” he recalls.
“And I think that was a big difference for me.
When I was a kid, I was really good at sports and a little bit lazy, and I never got very far.
And I always had the ambition to be more athletic, to be a good runner.”
Nee says the Amishes’ devotion to the land was a gift to him.
“Their commitment to nature is really, really important, and a huge part of that is that they’re in it to the very end,” he adds.
“In other words, they’re going to the end of their lives to have the most enjoyment of their time here.”
A friend who works in the Amished community says that while Amish families may be more observant, they also have a deeper, more traditional faith.
“There are many more traditional Amish churches, but there are also more traditional religious institutions that are still in operation,” says Kristina M. Davenport, executive director of the Amash Friendship Association, which serves more than 1,300 Amish members in Michigan and Wisconsin.
“That’s something that’s a little more subtle, and you may see some people who are observant in the community, but they still have this sense of being very close to God.”
And when it comes to helping their own kids, the Amazons are doing a good job of it too.
A recent study by Davenports and her colleagues found that Amish children were more likely to have healthy relationships with their families than children of other religious groups.
This is a trait that goes hand in hand with a deep sense of faith, which explains why Amish kids are far more likely than other children to attend religious school and join prayer groups.
“So we’re doing everything we can to be supportive of our children,” Davenaux says.