My current series of Amish stories from Berkley Books, the Keepers of the Promise series, revolves around three cousins who are asked by their grandmother to carry on her tradition of preserving the stories of their family for future generations. The cousins enter upon the task with mixed feelings, but for each of them learning a story from the past through an object given to her by her grandmother becomes a key to unlocking a difficult problem in her own life.
When I began planning the book that would eventually become the second book, I knew I needed to find an event to inspire the historical story that threads through the modern story of the book. I also knew it was going to have something to do with the Amish struggles over education, but I wasn’t sure what. So I did what every writer does when looking for an idea—I turned to Google!
Wandering around the Internet can be fun and addictive, as most of us know. But eventually an image popped up on my screen, and it was one I couldn’t dismiss from my mind.
The sight of these Amish children fleeing into a cornfield riveted me. Why are they running? I learned it was because they had been ordered by the local school board to be taken by bus from the one-room schoolhouse they’d attended and sent to a consolidated school. It’s such an evocative image isn’t it? In fact, it had such an impact when it first appeared in a local newspaper that it was reprinted in national magazines and newspapers. In their own way, those fleeing children contributed to the freedom the Amish now have to run their own schools and educate their young in accordance with their beliefs.
A little further research on the topic brought me to a defining moment that became the basis for the historical story in my book. Did you know that in the fall of 1953, over 100 Amish parents were jailed in Lancaster County for refusing to send their children to a consolidated high school? The Amish didn’t picket or riot or create a national campaign for their rights. They simply and quietly went to jail for what they believed.
I knew then the protagonist of my past story would be one of those parents, and that her sacrifice in standing up quietly for her beliefs would help to bring about change, just as those children running into the cornfield did.
Have you ever had to stand up against authority for what is right? If so, I hope you found the grace of God’s presence in your struggle.