NomDebPlume's 2½ Cents

Because I have an opinion about everything…

A Lesson From The Amish

AmishGirl2© Bill Coleman

By now, everyone knows the details of the horrific school shooting that took place in Lancaster County at the Amish one-room Schoolhouse. The updates on the news are so painful and difficult to absorb, one can’t even make sense of it all. But rather than focus on the carnage that took place on Monday, October 2, or try to fathom what provoked the shooter to plan and carry out such a gruesome act of violence, I am trying to comprehend how the Amish have found it within themselves to forgive the man who caused them this unspeakable grief. Beyond forgiveness, it would appear they have put their words into action by extending themselves to the shooter’s wife, acknowledging her as someone also sharing in the sorrow known only by those who have lost a loved one.



I am a resident of Lancaster, Pennsylvania – living about 20 miles from the schoolhouse, which is located in an area called “Paradise”. The Amish have never meant more to me than an unusually dressed nice group of people who have decided to set themselves apart by not participating in the technological revolution. A buggy will pass down my road every once in a while and I still run to the window, a former “city-girl” lured by the hoofbeats of the horse. To many, their section of the county represents a place where one can get a good “family style” meal. If family or friends visit from New York, they enjoy having dinner at one of these restaurants, sitting down and passing platters of food back and forth among strangers at a big table. And the food is delicious, plentiful and traditional to the area. I still don’t know what “chow-chow” is, but people seem to love it. Though these establishments are not run by the Amish, they are part of the overall tourist attraction that has been created because the Amish live so close, and I believe these restaurants try to recreate the feeling of “Community”, which is so important to the their way of life.

Though from a distance, I have admired the faith of the Amish and their ability to live happily without our amenities, but overall, I have been more amazed with the fact that they actually have no electricity, cars or phones, etc. As someone who drives everywhere, after blow-drying my hair in a well-lit house – sometimes while watching the news – and relies on my cell phone if I should get lost during my travels, this is truly difficult to appreciate. But not as difficult as imagining how agonizing it must be not only to confront the wife of the man who shot and killed these innocent little girls, but also to forgive him and show his family love. From what I’ve read and heard, those affected by this tragedy have visited with Mrs. Roberts and let her know that her husband was forgiven. They hold no animus toward her or her children and have offered to help them cope through their own crisis. Additionally, Mrs. Roberts was invited to the funerals and attended one of them on Thursday; her grandfather attended the fifth funeral on Friday. But most striking is that the Amish leaders insisted a fund be set up for Mrs. Roberts and the children.

No longer are these “Plain People”, a name by which they are sometimes referred, merely decorations on my Lancastrian landscape. These people who separate themselves and keep to themselves, wanting no attention drawn to their ways or their lives have become a story followed all around the world. For me, I have investigated to learn more about them and what can make a group of people capable of such a depth of forgiveness. What I’ve learned is as basic as the clothing and lifestyle I’ve observed all along:
The Amish are very devout in their faith. They believe in the literal interpretation and application of Scripture as the Word of God.”

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14

Rather than the whole world reading the appalling accounts of this last week in Lancaster only to wonder why such senseless murders took place, and fostering a hatred for the man who caused it all, I hope the lasting memory is that of the forgiving Amish. Indeed, they are a lesson for us all.


The Amish believe funerals are more important than births because of their fervent Biblical belief in the afterlife. Still, as we admire a loving and forgiving community, may we pray for comfort as they deal with their devastating loss…

Naomi Rose Ebersol, 7 years old
Mary Liz Miller, 8 years old
Lena Miller, 7 years old
Marian Fisher, 13 years old
Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12 years old

~ May you find rest in Paradise ~


© Bill Coleman




For those wishing to make a donation:

Electronic donations can be made to the Nickel Mines School Victims Fund at:

Donations can be mailed to:

Nickel Mines Children’s Fund
Coatesville Savings Bank
1082 Georgetown Road
Paradise, PA 17562

Roberts Family Fund
Coatesville Savings Bank
1082 Georgetown Road
Paradise, PA 17562

For more information, please visit:


Grateful acknowledgement to Bill Coleman for the use of his moving photographs of Amish little girls in this piece.
301 South Garner Street, State College, PA 16801 / / 814-238-8495


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4 thoughts on “A Lesson From The Amish

  1. Beautiful tribute Debi. And I agree wholeheartedly – let’s celebrate the strength and resolve of those who were struck by this tragedy – rather than fire up the microscope to try to ‘understand’ why a man would do such a thing. There seems to be an unhealthy fascination with the macabre in our culture where killers get more attention than their victims. The power of faith is something we would all do well to focus on.

  2. That’s really inspiring. I remember being in Lancaster in the summer of 1993, visiting relatives of an aunt’s husband, and I remember seeing the wagons on the shoulder of the road and wishing I had time to get to know some of those people. An area of Tennessee near my hometown in Alabama also has a small but thriving Amish community.

    And a really nice tribute you’ve written. It’s true, it’s amazing and perplexing, the incredible capacity for forgiveness and understanding that we see from some people. It’s difficult to fathom. I’m reminded of the Marine corporal who collapsed in tears after blasting open a tenement building in Fallujah. He said that a Muslim woman, covered with the blood of her family, walked up to him and touched his chin. “God’s will,” she said. That’s incredible.

    So I think the capacity that people find to really live for the Golden Rule no matter what they face is not something that can be specifically tied to one faith. The Amish have found it in the teachings of Jesus. Others have found it elsewhere. I think the seat of such overwhelming humanity must lie deeper than the verses contained in any book, however sacred. It’s tremendously moving and inspiring.

    Thanks for a great post.

  3. Thank you both for stopping by and leaving your thoughtful comments. It’s always nice to know my posts are being read and appreciated…

    Annie – I agree with you about society’s “ambulance chasing” mentality and the need to refocus on the victims. Hopefully, the Amish have helped to sway attention a bit this time, albeit inadvertently. I don’t think we will ever understand why Roberts did what he did, but the power of faith is much easier to grasp.

    Curt – It is difficult to really get to know the Amish, as they are a reclusive group, but they do venture out at times and I, for one, will no longer view them as an “oddity”.

    The poignant story you told of the woman and soldier in Fallujah sounds like an agonizing display of forgiveness. I don’t mean to detract from the magnitude of this woman’s faith or her ability to forgive, but I’m finding it difficult to directly compare her story with that of the Amish – a homicidal pedophile attacking totally innocent little girls as opposed to an American Soldier in time of war.

    Still, forgiveness, under any circumstances, is Divine… not something wired into our human nature. I admit to sometimes having difficulty forgiving offenses much lower down the scale… which is partially responsible for my writing this tribute in the first place.

    My best to you both,


  4. Hi. I stumbled across your site while I was looking for something else. While I do not agree with some of what you say we do have almost the same viewpoints by and large. I have bookmarked your blog and will visit again in the near future to see what you’re writing about in 2010!

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