Last year I watched “World’s Squarest Teenagers”, where Amish youth came out of their ‘world’ and shared homes with college/gap year students, visiting nightclubs, going surfing, wearing jeans and such. It was entertaining and enjoyable if not a little odd.
The Amish way of life is never one that I could live (their ways of marriage, gender bias, outfits and hairstyles to name a few), but I do admire the ways in which they form a strong community, and rely on one another and their own work, rather than processed pizzas, petrol or iPods. And they do not wear makeup – neither do I so we have that in common – because they do not feel the need to mask themselves, and do not conform to the very wrong modern ‘ideal’ of beauty which says that orange skin, died hair and botox is the way forward.
George Selwyn Sharpe, from Eton College, and one of the six in the new series “Living with the Amish” said when he returned: “One thing I’ve tried to take back with me is respect for family. The Amish are so respectful. And it goes through every generation, from grandchildren to grandfathers. It made me want to be more active in sustaining better relationships with my friends and family. And to avoid unnecessary arguments. We spent six weeks with Amish families and didn’t hear anyone swear or shout once.”
The voiceover as the programme began said that the six youths heading to live with the Amish for their summer were “hand-picked to represent the best of British youth.” As the Mirror’s review pointed out I, and assumedly most other viewers, uttered an “Oh dear” and held their breath in anticipation. But – thank God – they really were.
I was worried that an opportunity to bring people together would be ruined to make a “reality TV comedy”. But, as the Mirror’s review said: “If you’re not wiping away a tear by the end of this, I’ll be very surprised.” Well no need to be surprised by me. I was tearful, as were the Amish and the guests, as 17 year old James felt a much needed warm welcome, and they completely respected one another. A stunningly beautiful programme. I will definitely watch the rest of the series, as they move to other Amish homes to experience the variety, but I can’t imagine it getting much better than it was tonight. It’s making my chin wobble just thinking about it! Beautiful. Hand-picked to represent the best of British youth? Yeah that’s right. Hand-picked, actually, to represent the best of Britain. Can’t we all be as open-minded, respectful, and loving as them?