Wednesday, July 8, 2015

We all need to be more Amish-Roger Rheinheimer

Last week a friend of a friend was out to our place to help set up some new equipment for my woodworking shop. My new “friend” is from China, and as the day wore on, I noticed that he seemed to be getting tired. I remember thinking that was a little odd because he is obviously in very good shape, but didn’t think too much about it; it is that season after all. He was here most of the day, never complaining, and when he departed in the early evening, he seemed ok other than the tiredness.

A couple of days ago I left a message on my friend’s voice mail asking about my new friend, and didn’t hear back until yesterday. According to his reply text, my new friend from China was apparently having a stroke when he was here.
I was shocked, of course, and asked what I could do. It also reminded me how fleeting this thing we call life is, and how very easy it is to get caught up in things that in hindsight are pretty irrelevant. And then I thought about how scattered most families are these days, keeping in touch via Skype and email, if they keep in touch at all. And I wondered who was at my Chinese friend’s hospital bedside since his family was not here. Then I thought, if this had happened to an Amish man, he would have immediately ad constantly been surrounded with family and friends.
I suppose this is why I enjoy writing about the Amish way of life so much. I’ve been close enough to the Amish to see the inconsistencies in some of their lives, and add that to my stories for humor and character building. But if we allow them to be human, which we must, the Amish are completed dedicated to God and family, and I respect that immensely.
Early in my Amish writing career, one of my lifelong friends asked if I was concerned about being known as an “Amish author.” The answer was and is no; I am proud to write about the Amish.

We all need to be more Amish.

Roger spent the first eighteen years of his life in northern Indiana, in the middle of Amish country. His father was the only doctor for a small town of a little over a thousand people, and had a hitching rail on a side street by his office for the Amish patients. His father bought an eighty acre farm, and Roger and his older brother worked it, raising cattle and growing crops.

While he was still in high school, Roger learned woodworking skills from Elmer Schlabach, his Amish mentor. They built houses in the old-fashioned tradition; hand-mixing the concrete for the foundations to building kitchen cabinets in Elmer's well equipped shop. To this day, Roger enjoys using his wood crafting skills, making acoustic guitars and furniture.

Roger earned an undergraduate degree in Behavioral Psychology from a small private college in the Shenandoah Valley, took a Creative Writing class, loved it, and published a short story called "My Brother." He was a regular contributing writer to the college newspaper.

After nearly thirty years living in Austin, Texas, watching it grow into a large city, Roger and his wife Ginny moved to a small farm in the Pacific Northwest.

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