"My cousins just left. Can you give 'em a place to stay for just one night?" he asked.
One was Sarah, a 19-year-old Swartzentruber Amish gal. She chose to leave and needed a kind "outsider" to give her a safe home and help.
My husband and I dressed, drove to WalMart, and met Sarah. She was tall - well, anyone higher than me is tall - slender, pretty, brown-eyed, with long brown hair and wore blue jeans, a blue t-shirt, and boys' athletic shoes. I tried to imagine her in plain dark frock, white kapp, and black bonnet.
Sarah and her brother, Monroe, greeted us toting plastic store bags with a few items. "Thanks for picking us up," she said.
"We hid 'em in our attic while we planned to leave."
I quickly realized two of Sarah's immediate needs were clothes and food, and she had only $100. One of the reasons they come out with little money is because all income is turned over to the dad until the child turns 21-y/o. Her $100 was the amount silently ferreted away from her dad.
Among other needs: her birth certificate, a Social Security number, a toothbrush and toothpaste, misc. toiletries, hairbrush, another pair of shoes, a bank account, transportation, dental care as she'd just had all her bottom teeth pulled out, housing, and a job. Where to begin?
It's almost overwhelming teaching and tutoring a teenager so much in a few weeks what our daughters gradually learned while growing up. Ex-Amish must feel brain-overloaded and exhausted with their condensed education. (tweet that) And those who are unwilling learners, stubborn, or argumentative have trouble successfully adjusting to the non-Amish life.
As a Swartzentruber Amish, she used an outhouse (for the females only), never shaved, nor was taught about proper hand washing or cross-contamination with foods. Typically, this Amish Order believes that ignoring their body is proof of their righteousness. My daughter gave Sarah her first razor after she said, "I'd like to shave under my arms." I gave Sarah a "tour" of our bathroom showing her how to use the shower, and wash with soap.
The next day, Friday, I drove Sarah to our county's Health Department to see if there was a birth certificate on her. The employee searched vital statistics and, fortunately, found that one was on record. "My mom always told me there was no birth certificate on me," Sarah exclaimed both surprised and delighted. She paid the fee and, for the first time, held a copy of her birth certificate.
Next on our agenda was obtaining clothing, shoes, toiletries, and a job. I sent out a plea to our church members, who generously and spontaneously donated to her. My pals Karen and Vicky found garage sale clothes, Lisa gave her a bicycle (but Sarah wasn't allowed to have a bicycle so she hadn't learned to ride). Some of my author colleagues sent a check to use towards Sarah's costs and needed dental work.
Saturday, I drove Sarah to a walk-in hair salon for her first-ever professional shampoo and haircut. She waited her turn conflicted with anxiety and anticipation. Wow, what a change when she walked out afterward sporting a shorter - not short - new doo. With new confidence, she smiled saying, "I'm glad I did that." But her money was nearly gone!
Noah called, "I found Sarah a place to live and a job in a restaurant." She was excited as she grabbed her bags of meager belongings and hopped in Noah's car to her new home.
After church we spent the afternoon gathered around the table for a rowdy game of Skum. Sarah quickly learned the game through our shouts and crazy laughter.
Wednesday, I picked her up and drove her to the Social Security Administration (SSA) to jump through government hoops in getting a Social Security number. "Do you have a photo ID?" asked the worker.
"No," replied Sarah.
"I need proof you are who you are."
"Why isn't my birth certificate enough?"
"It just proves your date of birth."
We drove to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get Sarah an Ohio photo ID Card, then back again to the SSA. After a day of driving back and forth, waiting our turn, answering questions, explaining why at 19 Sarah had no SS#, and signing paperwork, she eventually received approval for her number.
Finally equipped with her ID and SS#, we went to our bank to open Sarah's checking account. That provided another round of waiting our turn, answering questions, fiscal explanations, and signing paperwork. Whew, we were both exhausted.
Out of respect for her privacy - and that of her younger brother - I've not posted about this duo until now. As I write this post, Sarah's just moved to another shared living arrangement, she's cleaning houses, and working as a restaurant cook when needed. She wants dependable FT work, a place of her own, driver's license, and eventually a car. Her employment opportunities are severely limited as she doesn't have a high school diploma or GED. Fast food restaurants, that usually hire teens, are an unfamiliar work venue to ex-Amish.
Sarah's climbing a vertical learning curve about life outside the Amish:
- idioms and English expressions,
- dental care,
- furnishing a home,
- earning a GED,
- different manners and courtesies.
I'm not shy about asking for help for these kids. If you have a question or want to shoot me a donation to help Sarah, please let me know in the comments below! I have a Paypal account where you could donate money to help with transportation, dentures, and other expenses. I'd like to help ex-Amish realize we "outsiders" aren't as evil and on our way to hell as their culture tells them.
See ya next week. ~ Brenda
(c)Copyright 2013, Brenda Nixon.