I am reading this book right now, “Little Bee” by Chris Cleave. It’s not a happy book at all – its core emotion is sadness. A wealthy British couple goes on vacation in Nigeria (who has heard of such a thing?) and while there, they come across 2 young Nigerian girls who are running for their lives. Men are hot on their heels, and one of them, the leader, demands the British couple pay for the lives of the girls by cutting off one of their fingers. Two fingers for two lives. The husband chickens out, but the wife, Sarah, does cut off one of her fingers, saving the life of the younger girl, who calls herself Little Bee.” But Sarah does not know this until two years later, when Little Bee finds her again after a tragedy.
Little Bee thinks she can say anything as long as she says, “That is a proverb in my country.” Maybe she thinks that by saying that, what she said before will be accepted more readily. Proverbs are interesting things. Everybody says them, sometimes without thinking. I collected some here for you to enjoy.
America – Actions speak louder than words. All that glitters is not gold. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Curiosity killed the cat. Good things come in small packages. A leopard cannot change its spots. Misery loves company. No news is good news. Practice makes perfect. Rome wasn’t built in a day.The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. There’s no place like home. You reap what you sow.
China – A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark. Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of only standing still. Failing to plan is like planning to fail. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow. If you don’t want anyone to know, don’t do it.
Australia – A bad worker blames his tools. Blood is thicker than water. Don’t blow your own trumpet. Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched. God helps those who help themselves. Half a loaf is better than none. None so deaf as those who would not hear. Once bitten, twice shy. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love; and then we return home. Those who lose dreaming are lost. We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through.
Nigeria – Without knowing a person we must not hate him. We are what our thinking makes us. The man who remembers others, remembers also his creator. When a dying man cries, it is not because of where he is going which he knows nothing about, but because of what he wishes he would have done in the world he is leaving behind. The head could not have got to where it is now if it did not give. To have no enemies is equivalent to wealth. Courage is the father of success.
Germany – All sins flow into one. All good come from above. Age does not protect from foolishness. To begin is easy, to persist is art. Fear lends wings (which means, fear will make you do things you would deem impossible in a different situation). There is sunshine after every rainfall. From damage one becomes intelligent – sometimes one is not enough (which means, you learn from your mistakes). The devil hides himself in the details.
Italy – A bad agreement is better than a good lawsuit. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. A cat pent up becomes a lion. A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts. A fool can ask more questions than seven wise men can answer. A forced kindness deserves no thanks. A gift with a kind countenance is a double present. A gold key opens every door. A good appetite does not want sauce. A stout heart overcomes ill fortune.
Of course, these are abbreviated lists. There are more, lots more. Every country has proverbs. Personally, “Actions speak louder than words” has always been my favorite. It reminds me of childhood, of my favorite American Girl doll, Samantha. In the book, “Meet Samantha,” she was sewing a sampler with that saying on it.
We are a world of proverbs, probably because we, as human beings, talk a lot! 🙂