Trusting Your Neighbor, Amish Style

A visit to a roadside produce stand in Amish country

Hello Friend,

The roadside stand was unpretentious. A few wooden tables of various sizes and heights, several buckets and bowls, and some bottom-side-up cardboard boxes displayed the fruit and vegetables that were for sale.

Unlike my local supermarket, there was no special lighting to enhance the polished shine of the produce, and no colorful signs to say from which exotic locale the items came from; we knew that. There was one variety of tomato, one kind of corn, and of beans and beets. No stickers with numbers to ensure that the right price would be rung up labeled the produce, and there was no “regular” price or “sale” price listed, just one number.

Nothing about the stand tried to entice one into buying anything. All the products stood there in their natural glory, some misshapen, some off color, some bruised, and some still had a dusting of soil on them.

The stand was housed in one half of a detached garage, and an Amish buggy stood beside it. There was no one around, so we called out and waited.

In the meantime, besides looking over the produce, my friend and I took time to admire the small patch of velvety cock’s comb that seemed to be randomly placed at the side of the dirt driveway. But maybe it was not random at all; perhaps they rose from the seeds that the sower sowed that landed on good ground.

After a few minutes, when no one appeared, we called again. Either the women in white bonnets whom we could see bustling about in the house did not see or hear us, or they were ignoring us. Then we noticed the handwritten sign on a can with a plastic cap that had a slit in it. It said: Please put money in here. Their business was based on trust.

We chose beans, corn, beets, and tomatoes, weighed what needed to be weighed on the old-fashioned scale in the corner, placed them in plastic bags that were kept in place by a heavy rock, rounded up the price, and put the money in the can.

It was humbling to realize that the owners of the stand placed complete trust in the strangers that stopped by. No need to check payment or to check weights. They trusted us to do the right thing and we did.

I have the feeling they may have even come out a little ahead for their trust in their neighbor, even if that neighbor was a stranger. I left feeling hopeful about humanity; that there was still a place where old fashioned values such as complete trust were yet a part of daily life. I also resolved to be more trusting and less judgmental, but I will still lock my doors