The Grocery Shower | Guest Post by Suzanne Woods Fisher

“Kindness, when given away, keeps coming back.” —Amish Proverb

Scattered throughout farms in Amish America are small bulk grocery stores. They have no signage, no advertisements, no large neon lights. Only a sharp-eyed observer might notice a few metal grocery carts stacked out front and realize they belong to a store.

Inside, a stream of Amish customers quietly push their carts up and down the aisles. The store is not crowded but never empty. There’s a library hush covering it, like a morning fog. A few English tourists ooh and aah over the low prices of spices. Ground cinnamon in a pint-sized container costs only twenty-five cents. An older Amish man reviews his wife’s handwritten list in his hand, scratches his head, then peers up at the boxed cereals. “There it is! I just love Post Bran Flakes,” he says aloud, pleased. “Best cereal on the market.” Two women, good friends, meet up in an aisle, whispering news of their families.

Long metal shelving is filled with staples such as sugar, salt, flour, and lots and lots of bulk candy. There’s another distinctive feature in this simple store. A cardboard box, placed near the register, with a handwritten sign on its front: “Grocery Shower. For Sam and Maryann Stoltzfus. Maryann has had two surgeries for gall bladders. Expenses are high. Let’s help.”

Rebecca, whose family runs this village store, explains it is an Amish custom to have a grocery shower box. “It’s a way we have of taking care of our own. There’s always someone who needs a little extra help.” The box is overflowing with goods.

“Tomorrow,” Rebecca adds, “there will be another box. Just learned of a couple whose baby was born a preemie.” She said that in most communities, a week or so after a wedding, friends have a grocery shower to help fill the couple’s pantry.

Caring for each other provides great security and peace of mind for church members. The Amish believe their actions of kindness are much more important than words or money.

Contrary to beliefs, the Amish are not exclusive in their care or in whom they perceive as a neighbor. Amish folks readily help their non-Amish neighbors in times of disaster, fire, or illness. “My neighbor is my neighbor whether he attends my church or is a nonbeliever,” says Will, Rebecca’s husband. “I help him and he helps me. We need each other.”

In some communities, like Will’s, Amish men actively participate in volunteer fire companies. In fact, more than half the members of some Lancaster County fire companies are Amish. The Amish also support fire companies through their public benefit auctions, which can have annual sales topping several hundred thousand dollars.

When a natural disaster strikes, the Amish reach into their pockets and give, but they also give with their time. Lancaster’s Amish made many trips to assist in the reconstruction of homes in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. One English woman remarked that the Amish carpentry crews had such a reputation for excellent work that homeowners in Pass Christian, Mississippi, asked for them specifically to rebuild their houses.

“I’ve gone down to Pass Christian a couple of times,” says twenty-five-year-old Joshua, a single Amish young man who lives on his family’s dairy farm in Groffdale, Pennsylvania. “A busload of us go down there, for weeks at a time. I like to go, like helping out. It’s fun to see a different place.”

Just as important, the Amish are comfortable about making needs known. Every week, The Budget runs advertisements for those in need. The family is identified, the need is stated, and an address for donations is provided. The tone in the request is similar to how one would write a sister or an aunt, filling her in on a family crisis, familiar enough to ask for help.

There is a childlike trust implied in these requests. Even though the Amish are known for their frugality, they are generous with others in need. “It’s because we know that someday, we might face hardships ourselves,” says Rebecca. “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.”

A suspicious, hardened English mind might worry that the Amish, in their naiveté and innocence, could be taken advantage of, scammed by con-artists. When such a concern was posed to Rebecca, she had a puzzled look on her face, as if she couldn’t quite get her mind around such an outrageous thought. “You mean, ask for money when they don’t really need it? But why? Why would someone ever do that?”

Why, indeed?

Source: Shared with permission by Revell Books. It was originally published in Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World.

Suzanne is giving away a copy of her newest book, The Lesson. Enter today using the Rafflecopter widget below. Please note that only those in the continental U.S. are eligible to win.

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Comments

  1. Susan Fryman says:

    Suzanne, I really enjoyed this post today. I always learn so much from you. Blessings, Susan Fryman

  2. Thank you, Susan! Your comment means a lot to me. Blessings on your new year! Warmly, Suzanne

  3. Christy Fitzwater says:

    Suzanne, you have challenged my heart in so many ways with this. This makes me think of our church shepherd shelves -a pantry for those in need -and how I never remember to give to it. Hmmm… I must find a way to remedy this. You’ve got my brain working.

  4. Judy Burgi says:

    Suzanne, your post brought back memories of when I grew up. Our church had grocery showers as described above in your post. The joy of being able to help those out in time of need or just help newlyweds off to a pantry full of food is a great feeling. Thank you for posting this. Our church gives to our local food pantry once a month. This is for our whole community. Our church also is involved in selling food during Apple Festival each October. Monies earned go toward helping those out in our church as well as community. It is calle, “In His Name.” Thanks again for your post. Blessings!

  5. Thanks, Christy! Grateful to hear from you today. I need the same push…to remember to be thoughtful to those in need. Warmly, Suzanne

  6. Judy…you know what I loved about your post? Such a great example of how we can care for others, in need, or starting out, etc. You don’t have to be Amish for that kind of community! Loved your thoughts. Warmly, Suzanne

  7. Our hurch sometimes has what we call a “pounding” for newly weds or for people who have lost their homes in a fire.I think it’s great when we help each other this way, after all we are here to love and to serve. Am looking forward to you new book.

  8. mary ellen ashenfelder says:

    Love reading your posts — helping others is so rewarding. hope to better myself in the new year.

  9. Kathy Milburn says:

    That was very interesting..I’ve never heard about all this, but I will say, thats a wonderful thing that the Amish do for one another, and for whom every, as their needed..Like with helping out in the South with rebuilding home after the hurricane..And thats why I feel ALL if Amish or Not..everyone should be there for one another, the world would be a better place..

  10. I liked your post today. Thanks for the chance to win! I like ur books!

  11. I enjoyed reading this post. I live in Southern Mississippi and we had a lot of damage in our county from Hurricane Katrina. Was without power for 16 days-gas was short-food was short-the love bugs were awful! I would have liked to have met some of the Amish.

    I would enjoy having this book.

  12. I would love to win The Lesson. Thank you for offering a copy! Really enjoyed this post. I will keep a lookout for the grocery carts! Kathleen ~ Missouri
    lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

  13. What an inspiring post. Thank you so much for sharing this today.

  14. Beverly Lytle says:

    Enjoyable reading!

  15. Elizabeth Dent says:

    I have just joined your page .. I love your books . I love to read about the Amish ..Thanks .

  16. How awesome it would be if everyone helped in this way instead of being critical or questioning the need. Awesome post!

  17. I believe we get so busy with our own lives we forget there are some many what the basic. Thank you for the reminder. Amish stories are more meaningful and remind me that the simple ways in life should be embraced.

  18. This is awesome! I can’t wait to read your newest book, Suzanne Woods Fisher. 🙂

  19. That is one thing that I have always appreciated about the Amish. When they don’t take government help, but they do ask others in the church and expect to help others when they are in trouble. I am not Amish, but grew up in the middle of an Amish community and many people in the church were ex-Amish. I will never forget when I was in dire straits and the church offered to give me a baby shower, even though I had moved out of the area. I traveled 100 miles for my baby shower, and was so blessed and surprised to drive home with my van so packed with groceries and baby gifts as they combined the baby shower with a grocery shower as well. I think I would have gone hungry otherwise as I was without income for a very long time with my husband is the hospital. God knew and provided these amazing people to reach out and changed my life. I also love Amish grocery stores, especially the salvage ones!!

  20. The part that “got” me in this post is the fact that they give of their time and money to help others. It made me think, “How often do I set aside money for future use as a way of helping out a neighbor, a friend, or even to use as a ministry tool?” Thanks for the thought today, Suzanne.

  21. Lori HIckey says:

    Loved this story of the grocery box. I’ve never heard of anything like it before. I love stories about the Amish! Thanks!

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