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Barn Problems

The Amish have a way of putting things into perspective.

We’ve all had moments when we cry in desperation, “What else can possibly go wrong?” Fate often steps in to answer our question  and reminds us who’s in charge. (Hint: It isn’t us.)

Most of the time, we just need to remember that things could be worse. Counting our blessings can help put things in perspective and may mean the difference between a momentary meltdown and a full-on anxiety attack.

I’ll admit I’m not great at this. I worry like crazy, and then I worry about why I always worry. It’s a vicious cycle. But no matter what happens, as long as my family is safe, I know things will be fine. Regardless of the challenges I’ve faced during the day, if I can hug all of my sons and kiss my husband before bed, I know it will be OK.

The Amish have a term for this kind of thinking: barn problems vs. house problems. Shana Angel lives in an area near Bolivar, Ohio, with a large Amish population. Her husband, Jonathan, is a large animal veterinarian who often works with Amish farmers.

“One of the things we hear frequently from the Amish community is the difference between a house problem and a barn problem,” she says. 

The first time she heard the phrase was when her husband was called out to put down a horse belonging to an Amish man.

“It was the favorite horse of this sweet old man and had been his reliable sidekick for a long time,” she says. “When Jonathan finished putting the horse down and expressed his sympathy, the man’s wife explained that the neighbor had just been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and that was a ‘house problem’; whereas, putting down the horse was a ‘barn problem.’ She was very thankful that they only had a barn problem.”

There’s no denying that the death of an animal – whether it’s livestock or a pet – can be heartbreaking. Losing a crop can also bring about genuine grief. It’s upsetting when a piece of equipment breaks down or it rains on the hay before you get it baled. But those are barn problems.

“We have heard the same sentiment expressed over and over again from the Amish community,” Angel says. “I think sometimes it’s really hard to remember that a barn problem is just a barn problem.”

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