And YOU think change is hard…

Dan Miller —  May 3, 2012 — 25 Comments

Last Thursday morning my daughter Ashley and I had the opportunity to speak to a group of Amish kids up in Berlin, Ohio.  Their dynamic teacher, Amy Stauffer-McNutt, is working with this group of 14-18 yr-olds who are no longer in school but realize they have to prepare for work that may look different from what their parents did.

Traditionally, most Amish youth drop out of school at 16 and join the family farming operation.  However, in the last decade, with consolidation of agricultural operations across the country, even those farms have disappeared and now a large percentage are moving into “city” jobs or starting entrepreneurial businesses of their own.

This is more than just a generational redirection – this is a major cultural shift.  And as you would expect, it comes with a lot of trepidation on the part of these students and certainly from their parents.  These students are learning business, office and computer skills to make themselves more employable – but they are not allowed to access the internet.  Yeah, that’s a challenge but they’re still trying to hold on to some boundaries to not blend into the English world.

When their teacher suggested taking a picture with me, she prefaced it with the knowledge that for many Amish families, taking pictures is still very “verbotten.”  But as you can see, several jumped at the chance – and I trust I am not putting them in jeopardy by showing it here.

Hey, if you think change is hard – how would you like to go from horse and buggy, no plumbing or electricity – to working in a Macy’s in a big city?  Some of you think going from bookkeeping to accounting is a stretch.  As I told them, learn from the past, but look to the future.  You can read the local paper coverage here – Holmes County Bargain Hunter

  • Travis

    Dan…that was nice of you to speak in Berlin (I grew up about 30 minutes from there in Loudonville). Over the years I have met many former Amish who have left their families for traditional work. It is not easy for them, so what you did will really help them out.

    • 48DaysDan

      Travis – cool I actually grew up just outside of Mansfield so I know the Loudonville area well.  Used to go to Mohigan Park for family picnics.

  • Sutton Parks

    Those kids are studying 48 Days material and Dave Ramsey’s material.  Sounds like they may have a leg up on many of the traditional students.  If teenagers can avoid debt while they’re discovering their calling they will avoid many pitfalls that can make them feel trapped in a career they have no passion for.  It is very interesting to me that an Amish community would be so forward thinking.  Very cool. 

    • 48DaysDan

      Sutton – yeah the Amish have some really solid ideas.  And yes, it’s a challenge for these kids – and their parents – to figure out what to hold on to and what to change.  I guess that’s true for all of us.  

  • Dproulo

    We should take a lesson from what is happening in the Amish community.  Many of them are seeing the changes to our economy and business world.  I can speak from firsthand experience of actually selling life insurance to many Amish people.  This was completely unheard of 15 to 20 years ago.  They see the changing times and they are adapting to it.  The lesson to learn is we need to adapt to the changing business and economic climate. 

    They are changing their views on things that may not be as important, yet at the same time leaving things alone they feel are unchangeable.  I can change the way and methods I do business, but I cannot change the integrity in which I operate in business.  The Serenity Prayer says it well:

    God, give us grace to accept with serenitythe things that cannot be changed,Courage to change the thingswhich should be changed,and the Wisdom to distinguishthe one from the other.

    • 48DaysDan

      Don – the Amish kids are confronted with what to hang on to and what to change.   That’s really true for all of us and I think sometimes it requires us to think more if the change would be dramatic.  Being raised in this environment caused me to start with a blank slate and decide what was true for me.  I think not being forced to look at big change often allows us to stay in comfortable mediocrity.  

  • Ryan Eidson

    Wow, that is such a cultural shift! That would be like moving to another country. My wife and I spent almost two years overseas, and many days were a stretch for us! I applaud those youth for exploring new things while holding to their values.

    • 48DaysDan

      Ryan – wow, that is the challenge.  “Exploring new things while holding on to their values.”  That’s a worthy goal for all of us.

      • Ryan Eidson

         Sure is!

  • Adam Rico

    Dan, yes change can be hard for all of us. Especially when it involves reevaluating core values. It takes a lot of courage to make a change in behavior when you know it may not be welcomed by the culture and community you are a part of.

    • 48DaysDan

      Adam – yes, for these kids a change in career may pull them away from both family and an entire culture.  I’m sure the parents are more than a little concerned about that very thing.

  • kimanzi constable

    With all the things going on in our society today, we have to be willing to adjust to change. This post is a great example of that.

  • Jen McDonough

    This was a wild article to read. Funny how we sometimes think “everyone lives the same way.”  
    It does make one wonder if they will grow up seeing things in a much different light as they will have such a different perspective. My guess is that with less technology growing up, their imaginations and creativity is used more than most kids today that are used to being entertained versus entertaining themselves. 
    Love the idea of you and Ashley got to speak into their lives…they couldn’t have asked for better mentors!!
    Keep Living Beyond Awesome!

    • 48DaysDan

      Jen – you are so right.  I’ve seen some incredibly innovative business ideas come out of the Amish communities.  Sometimes what we see as obstacles just stimulate more creativity. 

  • David Bartosik

    what an incredible opportunity and one that can have lasting impact on the community!  Found your blog through Kent and glad I did!  Great stuff Dan, seems like it was a great encouragement to you, your daughter, and to the people you were with!

  • Ken Maust

    One big advantage these kids have over “city” kids is that they have learned to work at a very early age! That is a huge leg up!

    • 48DaysDan

      Ken – you are so right.  I am eternally grateful I learned how to work at a very early age.

      • Ken


        Are all of these kids Amish? If so, the “dress code” has changed a lot from the Amish in western MD and southwestern PA that I knew and worked with. The pink shirt with the smiley face would not have been smiled on there… ;-) The amish I knew were old order amish. These may be a different strain…

        • 48DaysDan

          Ken – I asked the same question, for the same reason.  I was not expecting to see green and red and pink.  But the teacher assured me that yes, they were all Amish.  

        • Amy Stauffer-McNutt

          Amy Stauffer-McNutt (the teacher) here… sorry about any confusion. The
          students all have to be either Amish (as you know, there are various “levels” of strictness) or conservative Mennonite and
          exempt from compulsory schooling beyond the eighth grade in order to
          enroll in the business class. It is not designed to pull “English”
          students out of local high schools or career tech programs. They did not
          object to having their pictures taken because none of them have joined
          church yet, so this is less “frowned upon.” The majority of my students
          are Amish, and the rest are from conservative Mennonite families who
          probably grew up Amish (all the girls in my class wear skirts or dresses
          and head coverings of different styles, depending on their
          congregational affiliation). Students may attend for one or two years.
          The ones who come from traditional Amish one-room parochial schools have
          VERY limited exposure to technology, but the students who went to one
          of the local public elementary schools know a bit more about computers.
          Holmes County’s economy depends a LOT on tourism and many local small
          businesses use technology, so with such a large Amish population, young
          people who plan to work outside the home gain a helpful advantage if
          they have some of these skills in preparation for entering the

          • 48DaysDan

            Amy – thanks for your added clarification here. That was a fun event with you and your students and my readers obviously enjoyed the conversation.

  • Rob Clinton

    Dan, how awesome you and Ashley got to speak to them! What a great lesson for all of us. Sounds like they have a strong leg-up on creative and critical thinking, strong work ethics, business principles, and that they are preparing and being setup to be way ahead of curve. I believe we all can learn a lot from them.

    • 48DaysDan

      Rob – yes, in as much as it might look like they have some obstacles, those challenges often just stimulate extraordinary creativity and innovation.

  • Jennifer Kneuss

    I am delighted to have had the opportunity to be the writer covering this story in my neighboring community (see link to online story). I, too, was thrilled that these young people heard words of gentle inspiration that encouraged them to look beyond the expected outcome of their lives – leave school after 8th grade, find a job in a shop or on a farm, then get married young (when the women traditionally no longer ever work outside the home), and then repeat the cycle, again and again. The agricultural life is a wonderful one, but it is not for everyone. I only wish that this talk could be repeated every single year for these young people, who have so much potential!
    Awesome talk, Dan!

    • 48DaysDan

      Jenn – what a hoot that you showed up as the reporter for this piece.  Amy put the details together in about 48 hours and Ashley and I were delighted to make a stop there at the school.  The Amish kids were so attentive and ready with their questions.  I feel a strong sense of connection to them with the changes – and opportunities – they are facing.  Thanks so much for your “reporting” and for your ongoing support for our message.