Stray Thoughts: There Are Important Lessons In Simplicity

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Envy affects people in different ways.

Some of us are motivated by the old adage of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

But I have no desire to keep up with them, or with the Trumps. I would not want to live in Trump Tower.

Randy Evans

On Open Government

Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He is a former editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of The Des Moines Register.

Visit the Iowa Freedom of Information Council website at: http://ifoic.org/

It’s not a politics thing. If my home was one of those marble and brocade tributes to wealth, I would worry about dust bunnies under the beds and the soap and toilet paper supply in each of the umpteen bathrooms.

I don’t begrudge Donald Trump his gold-plated faucets, his gilt-edged furnishings or his butlers and maids. It’s just not for me.

There’s another thing that’s also not for me: camping. I am not the least bit envious of the friend who is heading west next month to camp in the backcountry of Grand Tetons National Park.

Of course, I thought all of the Grand Tetons was backcountry.

To me, spending the night in a tent with those beautiful mountains around me is little more than a non-gilt-edged invitation for bears and other varmints to come nosing around while I try to sleep.

As I tell people, my idea of “roughing it” is a Motel 6.

Having confessed that, however, I do find myself envying the Amish. That’s especially true when I see parents and kids in their buggy as the hard-working horse clip-clops down a road in Davis County or when I drive past an Amish farmstead and see three or four buggies parked in the yard.

My envy of the Amish comes not from their reliance on horse-powered transportation or their lack of electricity, televisions and computers.

Instead, it comes from their ability to keep a laser focus on three of the most important things in their lives: faith, family and friends.

I have found myself thinking a lot about Iowa’s Amish citizens in the past year or two. They seemingly are not distracted or discouraged by the stress and strain that many of us “English” have experienced amid the constant chatter of politicians and pundits leading up to and in the months after last November’s election.

The Amish are not obsessing about what Donald Trump said or what Hillary Clinton did. They are not worrying whether a neighbor is a Republican or a Democrat. They are not motivated by any desire to even the score.

Instead, what motivates the Amish is their desire to live in peace and harmony, making their way through these challenging times by constantly practicing their faith in their everyday lives with humility and simplicity.

That means respecting others. That means placing the good of their Amish community over what might be in their own individual best interests.

Living their faith means looking after each other — providing dignity and care for the elderly, for the disabled or for others in a time of need.

While that typically means their fellow Amish, I remember photographs from Iowa’s devastating floods in 1993 and 2008 when our Amish brothers and sisters turned out to help fill sandbags to stave off the rising rivers in some communities in our state.

One memorable photo from 2008 showed Amish men heaving sandbags to protect the main library at the University of Iowa. The irony did not go unnoticed, since the Amish typically end their formal schooling after the eighth grade.

The point of all of this is quite simple:

While some of us find ourselves wishing we could be more like the person with wealth and fancy possessions and lavish homes, I find myself itching for the simplicity that has satisfied the Amish families of Davis County for the past half century.

While they were not intending to do so, our Amish neighbors have taught us many valuable lessons along the way during that time.

And we are richer for that.

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Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.

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