This past week we spent one glorious week at the beach in a quaint little house which, if it sat any closer, it would have been floating in the water. We anticipated many things from our trip to the beach: lots of time in the ocean, aquatic creature sightings, sun & sand (possibly even sunburn!), along with many, many memories that we could cherish for years to come.
What we didn't expect, however, was to make friends with another family.
It was only on our second day that we saw this family at various times, walking from their house to the beach. Our interactions started simply with a head nod, which eventually became a hello when we'd both gathered the courage to utter the words.
Then the children began watching each other, curiosity piqued, as they played in the sand building castles and moats. Or as my girls boogied on their boards with each friendly wave of the sea.
It was my girls who finally invited them to play, inching closer as they worked together to build a fortress. Before I knew it, a teenager was chatting with me. Then a grandfather, followed by a grandmother. Then a mother and father close in age to my own.
The next few days were spent getting to know each other. Sitting at the beach exchanging stories. Laughing. Enjoying the blossoming friendships between our children.
The week ended in an exchange of addresses and welcome invitations to visit. These weren't email addresses though. And there were no phone numbers. Just a street, town, and state.
While most would think such an exchange were odd in today's day and age with all of our technology and resources, but to our newfound friends, it is a way of life.
For you see, our new friends are AMISH.
One of the things I noticed was that so many people were afraid to talk with this family. Maybe because they were unsure of the rules in the Amish community. Perhaps they were afraid of offending them. I, myself, admittedly was quite ignorant about the Amish, my little knowledge coming from lame reality television shows like Breaking Amish. But as we got to know each other, I realized, (as it was said to me by a member of their family), "The only difference is in the way we dress." By the end of the week though, I saw other people interacting with this family. I hope it was my family's example of not judging, our acceptance of diversity, which influenced them to be brave.
This, of course, as a writer, got me thinking.
Many things come to mind when we think of diversity in books. Ethnicities and races. LGBT. Even disabilities. But how often do we consider creeds--those of different religions? Do we consider those who are Hindi, Mormon, or even Amish when our thoughts turn to diversity? If not, why?
Why would we limit our thoughts when engaging in diversity in books? Shouldn't we look at all the possibilities? Sure, we need characters who are African-American to Asian to everything in between. But we also need characters of religious and moral strength and courage. Because, believe it or not, the Amish read books. In fact, the family I met are rather avid readers. Do their reading interests not matter? Are they any less important simply because of their differences? I say -NO WAY! I say we need books for them. Books with great stories, characters they can relate to, and plots that intrigue. They need to know that there are wonderful books just for them.
So, the next time you sit down to write, consider diversity in its many varieties and forms. I know I will.
I am forever grateful for my experience at the beach and what my interactions with this family have taught me.
And yes, I'm looking forward to a horse and buggy ride when we visit them in the very near future.