Our newest grandson, Thomas Lea Morris, was born on March 16, 2016. He came into the world six weeks early but, his arrival was a blessing to everyone. Now we are trying to fatten up his little body and get him healthy and strong as he prepares to face the world. In thinking about Thomas Lea, I was reminded of a blog I wrote back in 2012 during our time in Gettysburg, Pa. During a weekend trip with Lisa’s parents to Strasburg, Pa., we encountered a most remarkable young Amish girl. The story she shared with us and the words she used (as I told in the story to follow) still rings in our ears and is a declaration to the value of life and how precious little children are to the families and friends who love them and to the God who created them.
Several weeks ago Lisa and I spent a day in Strasburg, Pennsylvania in Lancaster County. The Lancaster area of Pennsylvania is considered the center of Amish country as well as home to the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum. It is not unusual to see Amish buggies moving along the side of the road as well as Amish businesses such as restaurants, bakeries and furniture stores. It has been difficult for Lisa and I to understand the Amish way of life and the idea of removing themselves from any ties to the world seems a bit extreme, to say the least. This is not to debate their chosen lifestyle but to tell a story about an extraordinary Amish brother and sister whom we met in Strasburg.
During our visit to Strasburg we came upon an Amish road side food stand and could not resist but to stop and check out their goods. It was there that we discovered their “Whoopie Pies”. Most of the Amish we have seen here seem thin and fit – certainly due to their grueling lifestyle that requires such intense physical labor. That must be the reason they don’t all weigh three-hundred pounds because those “Whoopie Pies” would never be found in the health food section of the grocery store – if you get our drift. These hockey puck sized cream filled cakes are deadly good and we loaded up. It was an Amish brother and sister actually running the food stand that day and Lisa and I are certain we will not forget them. The girl looked to be in her young teens and her little brother around ten years old. Both were two of the cutest children we had ever seen and their dark complexion and big brown eyes were almost stunning. But beyond their looks the kids were well spoken and their engaging personalities were unlike any I had ever encountered – even though I had spent twenty years working in a middle school. These two were extraordinary. Lisa and I talked about them many times in the weeks following that trip.
This past weekend we returned to Strasburg – only this time with Lisa’s mom and dad (Bobbie and Vernon Cunningham) who traveled north for a visit. We had talked so much about “Whoopie Pies” that they both were determined to find some to take home to family and friends. Fortunately we found the same two children at their little food stand and we loaded up on their homemade “Whoopie Pies”. But the point of all this is really not about “Whoopie Pies” but something the little girl said to us while we were making our purchases. The little boy was laying in his sister’s lap wrapped in a blanket and as we walked up they both jumped to attention. Their bright smiles greeted us and the sister began to explain what was available for purchase. Along with the “Whoopies” they had apple pies, cookies, jellies, relish, and more for sell and we bought several items. Bobbie wanted to take some chocolate chip cookies home and we noticed the sister whisper for her brother to ride his scooter home to get more since they were almost sold out. Amish scooters are a popular mode of transportation for children and adults in their community. Amish believe pedals represent a dreaded threat to their lifestyle – namely, being in a hurry and so the scooters rely on leg power only. While we waited for him to return, Bobbie asked the sister how many were in her family and she told us she was one of five girls and she had four brothers. Also, she told us she had new-born twin brothers who were born premature and were in the Lancaster hospital. She said they had been born just over one pound each but were doing better. She said they were told that day that they had gained a few ounces which was encouraging news. Then she said something that I may never forget – keep in mind this is a middle school aged child.
“Every ounce counts”.
Without getting into any political argument about pro-life vs. pro-choice positions – it was one of the most poignant moments for me about the value of life – “Every ounce counts”. We live in a world that has all but discounted life to the point of meaninglessness. But this little girl, seen by some perhaps as being backward and out of touch with life due to her Amish upbringing – displayed wisdom like I had never seen before in anyone her age (or older) and she did it with three simple words – “Every ounce counts”. It must not have entered her mind this would be two more mouths to feed along with the eleven others in her family. For her – it would certainly mean more child care responsibilities. But her joy in saying they were growing spoke volumes about where her heart was. If only all of us could value life as much as this.
Steve and Lisa