Travels with Amos: Amish Barn-Raising in Maine

Kennon, Amos and I are now moving south towards home. After climbing to the “roof” of Maine on Highway 11 on Thursday, we turned the corner onto Highway 1 Friday and drove out of the hills and potato fields to the sea.

We entered Maine after a beautiful drive through the side roads of Vermont and New Hampshire and camped on Eagle Lake. On the way there we passed one of the most amazing sights of the trip: an Amish community barn-raising. Kennon counted more than 25 men working on the roof, and many more were on the ground, both inside and outside of the structure. It was a symbol of community that is burned forever into my memory.

From Eagle Lake to the top of the state at Madawaska we drove alongside the St. John River, just across from New Brunswick, Canada. Some of the street signs were in French and English, and the two men in the booth next to us at a diner where we had breakfast were speaking a mixture of the two languages (much like the Cajuns of Louisiana). A large Roman Catholic Church was the centerpiece of towns and villages on both sides of the river.

Coming down the other side, New Brunswick remained just across the St. Croix River. We stopped for the night in Machias, Maine and today (Saturday) will drive to Bar Harbor and Stonington.

To see pictures from the New York and Pennsylvania part of the journey click here. I’ll post the Maine pictures when our visit here is completed.

The Amish community barn raising inspired me to ask the following questions: “What does community mean to you?” and “In what ways do we rally around our neighbors and help them construct a life?” Finally, “What are examples in our typical busy American communities of barn-raising?”

Let me know what you think by email ( or in The Pub on my PeoplesVision website.

Thanks to those of you who have sent me comments.

David Keller wrote, “We can become united again with a willingness to accept the fact that diversity is a gift. Along with this challenge is the willingness to honor the integrity of other points of view, solutions, and perspectives, while at the same time realizing that compromise and working together within compromise is a sometimes “messy” process, but worth the effort.

“No…this is not “pie-in-the-sky” liberal dreaming. It is the hard work of living in a diverse democracy and it is a very practical goal. One key is to value being well informed about issues and to get involved in any way possible.

“The art of listening is crucial, to say nothing about compassionate relationships. Compassion is to realize we are all on the same ‘level’ of existence and to have heart felt concern for each other (in the midst of diversity).

“One crucial way to have this discipline of listening is through meditation. Listening to God, or to silence if we do not acknowledge any ‘god’, is the best way to learn to listen to each other.

“If we learn to listen to the ‘voice’ of God in silent meditation (in its variety of forms) we will be able to recognize that same voice in society, in the people, needs, and situations that demand our attention.

“Yes, some situations demand our attention. The alternative is self-serving isolation (the opposite of compassion). Apathy is probably our most serious problem today. Apathy feeds consumerism. As Bruce Springsteen says in his latest album (Wrecking Ball): ‘Let’s stand shoulder-to-shoulder and heart-to-heart.’ Not bad advice!”

Warren Mathews responded to a previous comment from David Keller by writing, “We are so disconnected from the land and from each other that all we can think about is ourselves.”

Matthews wrote, “I would go further to bemoan the extent to which we are disconnected not only from the land, but also from ourselves.  As we have become more and more urbanized, we have become more and more dependent on others, and indeed on impersonal collections of others (companies), for almost all of our needs as well as our wants. 

“There was something solid and meaningful about having to construct our own shelter, raise our own food, take care of our own pains and illnesses as best we could….

“I wouldn’t for a minute want to go back to those days, but I recognize that if, say in a massive disaster, I were suddenly cut off from the utilities (electricity, water, telephone), grocery stores, sources of maintenance for my house and automobile, doctors and pharmacies and hospitals, etc. that I depend on, I’d be almost totally lost. 

“Life has become fundamentally indirect, where we spend most of our time working to earn money (not of tangible use in it own right), with which we then buy (typically in an impersonal interaction with some impersonal enterprise) whatever we need to function, or want for entertainment. Incidentally, I’d guess that we found more real community with not-so-near neighbors in the agrarian society than we find with many of our next-door or close neighbors in the urban setting.”