Shopping with Sunshine; an intro to my Amish friend & Rumspringa

For the past few months I have been taking my Amish pen pal on day shopping trips on her days off of work. It's a great opportunity for us to spend time getting to know one another face to face instead of through letters. In order to protect her identity, I will be referring to her as Sunshine. Her letters are often filled with optimism, happiness, and warmth. So it is only fitting that I nickname her Sunshine. 

Sunshine is a younger Amish woman who is currently taking her baptism classes and will be joining the church this fall. I asked her recently if she would be allowed to join me if she were already baptized because I considered these outings part of her Rumspringa. I was happy to find out after she joins the church, our shopping outings will continue. For those of you who do not know what Rumspringa is, I will explain it to the best of my knowledge. 

Rumspringa is when the community youth has a "running around" period. This starts at age 16 and lasts until they decide to join the church; usually at 18-20 years old. During these years, the parents, elders, and church leaders are more lenient with the youth. This does not mean those in their Rumspringa are able to do whatever they want though. That is a common misconception that TV producers have been trying to capitalize on for a few years with shows like "Breaking Amish". Youth in their Rumspringa are still expected to put God first, avoid jeopardizing their reputation, and not do anything to bring shame on their family, church, or community. Not very different from what most parents expect out of their teenage children. 

Youth in their Rumspringa often do things such as go to the movies, try English clothes, wear make-up, or even have a prepaid cell phone. Why are they allowed this period? They are allowed this because it’s their one and only opportunity to get the ways of the outside world out of their system. It's a chance to see if the English world is a better fit for them before they take their kneeling vow and commit their life to God and live Amish. 

Most youth in their Rumspringa continue to live their life Amish without trying anything new or worldly. Just like the typical teenager though, there are some that test the limits and have no regard for how their actions or decisions may affect themselves or their family. Because these youth are not yet baptized, they have an opportunity to ask for forgiveness and not risk the chance of being shunned like they would be if they had been baptized. I will talk more about shunning another time. 

Sunshine is one of those youth in her Rumspringa that has no desire to try anything English. I find her incredibly mature compared to other young adults her age. That could simply be because Amish children grow up faster. They learn at a very young age how to cook or do farm chores, maintain an entire household, look after other family members and value the importance of community in their life. I am simply in awe of how the Amish help one another with unselfish devotion. 

My shopping outings with Sunshine are not your typical female shopping trips where clothes are tried on and shoes are coveted. These shopping trips are all about necessities. Money spent is carefully considered. Each shopping trip usually consists of the same stops; Aldi, Walmart, The Dollar Tree, and thrift stores. Oh, and we do stop for lunch. She is quite a fan of a chili cheese dog, French fries, and a shake or ice cream! Smile

I'm sure some of you may be curious about what a young Amish woman purchases at these stores. Check back soon for my next installment of "Shopping with Sunshine". 

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