Contributed By Alexandra Kudukis
Why do you wear those strange outfits? Why would you want to live your life like that?
And sometimes, just simply, Why?
Those are the most common questions asked of Lorina Mast, 27, of Geauga County. To answer those questions and even more, lets take a glimpse into Lorina’s childhood. She was raised in a household alongside her brothers by what she describes as incredibly supportive and loving Amish parents in West Farmington, Trumbull County, Ohio.
Here are a few of the nuts and bolts of her early life. She grew up in a home that did not have electricity. Her parents did not own or drive an automobile. They wore the traditional Amish garb complete with head coverings for women. They also learned German in traditional Amish schools, as well as Pennsylvania Dutch, which they use to communicate with each other. In short, it’s a different way of life, one in which they intentionally give up and go without many of what most people consider useful, if not essential modern conveniences.
So why would someone intentionally choose this lifestyle of seemingly self-selected and induced hardship?
As Lorina explains, the purpose is draw oneself closer to God, by living a life purely, honestly, and modestly, free of modern distractions. There are several aspects to the Amish way of life, the religious, cultural, and societal. The Amish lifestyle is truly that, an all- encompassing way of life.
It’s not an easy life, but that’s exactly the point, it’s not supposed to be. It’s the Amish mindset, to live a meaningful and purposeful life.
While they abstain from some luxuries, the commonalities of that pursuit, bind them into a tightknit closely bound culturally strong community. If one member is in need, then the entire group is there ready and willing to offer any assistance that is needed. They are close, loving, and they’re for each other, in the good and in bad times.
Personal choice is an important component. As each young member reaches maturity, they are given a Rumshpringa period. This is a period of time when young adults are not only allowed, but also encouraged to seek out the pleasures of the outside world. Both male and female youth are encouraged to use this period of self-determined length, to explore the pleasures more mature members have chosen to abstain from, to determine if the Amish way, is indeed their path.
If they choose to accept the Amish path, baptism is the next step.
Lorina embarked on this process with several competing ideas and thoughts coursing through her. The seed of uncertainty and doubt sprouted early in her. She felt that it all began with her unending curiosity as a child. She remembers always questioning things growing up. She always felt that she knew that they was something outside her world that she needed to see. As she grew, she kept searching for what that exactly was. It was in her searching that she questioned some of the practices she was taught.
Lorina remembers a conversation the family had around the dinner table when she was about ten. One evening, as the family shared normal and routine moments from their days, Lorina loudly blurted out that maybe the Amish way wasn’t necessarily the only way.
After a short moment of uncomfortable silence her brother stated “well if you think that way, you might as well not even be Amish then” After many more years of study, education, and soul searching, and her obligatory Rumshpringa period, Lorina did indeed decide just that.
This could have easily been a been the end of her relationship with all of her family members. However, due to her parent’s firm and intense love of family, this wasn’t the complete break that it often is in Amish families. Family came first to her parents, and they were determined to keep their family together at any cost. They cultivated and maintained a closeness that has only grown. To this very day, Lorina glides between the outside world, and the safe haven that is her immediate family.
Perhaps it is that these perpetual movements between cultures, that give Lorina a unique perspective that she enjoys sharing with others. Her strong Amish upbringing, and her desire to grow and learn, have bolstered her though life’s ups and downs. When asked for advice that she could share based on her experiences, she stated that outward differences are simply that, make the choice to not judge but to learn from people who are different than you.
Lorina currently works at the Chagrin Falls Senior Center, helping seniors by leading activities including chair yoga.
She will speak at the center, 7060 Woodland Ave. Chagrin Falls, OH 44023, on February 27th at 12:00 p.m., sharing her life story, all seniors are invited to attend. Please call (440) 247-8510 for more information.
Pictured In Left Photo: Lorina Mast as a child.
Pictured In Center Photo: Lorina Mast, 27.
Pictured In Right Photo: Members of the chair yoga class that Lorina teaches. From Left to Right, Grace Kudukis, Carol May, Carol Hupp, Sheila Krok, Lorina Mast (instructor) Wave Ward, Judy Goldsmith, Sarah Sanders, and Peg Schutt.