Proverbs

"Distance makes the heart grow fonder."

"Distance makes the heart grow fonder" is a proverb that was frequently used by my girlfriend in Atlanta, before I went off to college. I will be spending my college years at Tennessee State University, and she will be attending the University of Georgia in Athens. She told me this to use as a source of encouragement while we are apart. The statement simply means that while we are many miles away from each other, we are still in each others hearts, and our love will be stronger when we meet again. I have learned from experience that this proverb is true because even in our brief separation we have developed a much closer relationship than we were when I left. We have become much better friends now because I can confide in her all of my worries and fears associated with college. I know that she will be there for me and help me however she can. Likewise, she can depend on me for support in whatever she does. Hopefully our relationship will continue to grow during my matriculation at TSU.

"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

When I was a little boy growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, My mother would always tell me don't count your chickens before they hatch. She was always telling me that because I was always saying what I was going to do and some way or another I would not get it done. For example I would say I am going to beat this game and I would always end up losing. One day I was playing pool and I bet a guy for twenty dollars. So we played a couple of games and I ended up losing and having to pay up. After that was over, I started thinking about what my mother used to tell me and ever since that day I don't say what I am going to do I just do it.

"Wait (weight) is what broke the bridge down."

As a child, I would help my mother do a lot of the chores, such as cooking, washing dishes, and vacuuming the floor. I loved helping out around the house. I also had strong interest in reading books and watching television. When my mother was ready for me to help her, she would call my name. If I was preoccupied with something, I would say "Wait a minute". Time would pass and she would call for me again. And again I would respond with "Wait a minute". Eventually she would come to me and say "Wait is what broke the bridge down". When I first heard it, I was confused and just blew it off. But then I came to realize what she was saying.

She was saying that the more I let the "waits" build up, the job would soon be done. Just as the more "weight" you put on a bridge, the greater chance it has to fall.

"If you throw a brick into a pack of dogs, the one that screams is the one you hit."

After the accidental, yet tragic loss of my first proverb paper, I endeavored to rewrite it. I was sitting at the dining table of a new-found friend, a true study partner I hope, when we started to discuss the topic. He commented to me that he had a proverb of his own. When I asked what it was about he said dogs. As I inquired further he eventually gave in. His words (which he claimed to be original) were "If you throw a brick into a pack of dogs, the one that screams is the one you hit." This seemed to me a reflection of some proverb of the past that I've heard before. However, his explanation was sufficient for me to give him the benefit of the doubt. Basically what he said was that if you are talking to a group of people and make an accusation the first person to become verbally or physically defensive is probably the one of guilt.

"Don't let your good deeds be evil spoken of."

My mother said this proverb to me one Sunday morning. I was getting ready to go out the door to church when she said this proverb. I didn't know what she meant until I thought about it while I was in church. One of my male friends likes me at church. So she meant don't let other people around you think that I was going to church for him and not for the service. After I returned home from church, I told her what it meant. She didn't think I would understand. Then she turned to me and said, "We're your deeds evil spoken of today"? I said, "I don't think they were this Sunday because I was too busy trying to figure out what you meant but next Sunday is a different story."

"What Goes Up Must Come Down."

This particular text is very popular as a law of science and as a proverb. I have heard this proverb stated many times both in a science class and in everyday conversation. It was not until the soulful R&B group, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, mixed a beat with the proverb that I began to pay attention to it. Frankie Beverly, the lead vocalist, is singing from personal experience of past relationships. Throughout his life he has come in contact with many women. For the most part he does not treat them right. These women walk away from the relationship with a feeling of emotional abuse. When this proverb smacks one in the face it is very powerful. Frankie tells his audience the way you treat a person is how you will be treated in the future. This proverb is usually accompanied by a gesture of the hand. One simply uses the index finger to point up and then down. If my memory serves me correctly at the release of this popular R&B song I was about sixteen years of age and experiencing problems in my relationship with a young lady. But hearing the words "what goes up must come down" allowed me to view my situation from a different perspective.

"Get your product ready-made, or leave it on the shelf."

Contrary to my mother's belief, my sister, Lisa, and I have always listened intently to her. We have taken to heart all of the words of wisdom she has shared with us over the years. As with most parents, the lessons she taught us with this proverb, and many others, were based on her own life experiences. On October 11, 1991, in the kitchen of our home, my mom, Jannie Carter Gray was speaking to her two obviously attractive daughters who were fast approaching marrying-age. Married for the second time to a man she was clearly incompatible with, it was her intent to emphasize to my sister and me the importance of a sound relationship. In order to be happy, one should not enter into a long-term relationship with someone if the success of the relationship depends on that someone making changes in his personality. I adhered to her advice and applied this principle to dating, just as she had suggested. After a while, I realized the very real parallel between searching for a life-long mate on the singles scene and shopping for goods in a store. By the time I said "I do" on May 29, 1993, I was certain that I had found the ready-made man with whom I would spend the rest of my life.

"Never put a question mark where God has put a period."

My mother and grandmother told me this proverb when I was around ten or eleven years old. I never did understand what it really meant until a few years ago. I use to ask my grandmother a lot of questions about God, such as, "Why do some people suffer and others do not?" She told me that God does different things for different reasons and it is not for us to understand. In the case of my mother, I asked her, "Why are some people rich, and some are poor?" She told me, "God does everything for a reason." Then she left it at that. Later she said that proverb. That proverb stayed in my mind for a long time. Recently my church got a new pastor. In one of his messages, he made a point that answered that proverb. He said, "Even I don't understand everything in the Bible; I do not understand why God tells you to do some things, but all I know that it is in the Bible, he said it, and I must keep the faith and do what he said." So that little phrase answered my question to that proverb.

"The Lord does not dwell in an unclean body."

About two and a half years ago, I spent the weekend over my cousin Shell and her boyfriend's house. That Saturday night, her boyfriend and his brother bought beer and other types of liquor. Everyone who was there drunk some including myself. I didn't get drunk; I just drunk beer because everyone else did and it was cool. Somehow my mom found out; let's just say the Lord told her. I'm not exactly sure what day she told me, but I know she called me in the room and told me to sit down. She asked me if I drank. I hesitated to tell her that I didn't, but I couldn't lie to my mother. I came straight out and told her that I did. She also asked when was the last time. When I told her about that weekend, her tone of voice got very serious, but light like a conscience in my mind. Her voice was clear and kept repeating itself in my mind. That's when she said, "The Lord does not dwell in an unclean body." This stuck to me for a long time, and is sticking to me now. What she meant was that if I drunk alcohol and abused it, the Lord's spirit would not be with me. The Lord's spirit doesn't live in the body of a person who physically abuse themselves with alcohol and drugs. The Lord helps those who help themselves. Abusing your body with alcohol and drugs is not helping yourself. After hearing those words I never picked up another bottle of beer or any other alcohol to drink it.

"Don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing."

Early this year my friend Mae was going through some difficult times with her boyfriend. She would tell him all the details that she did on a daily basis. For example, she shared with him a conversation she had with her boss. Her boyfriend felt the conversation had some sexual harassment statements. This made him angry. Her being so open with him caused problems in their relationship. After she told me of the situation, I stated to her "Don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing". I said this in order to give her an opportunity to think about their relationship and what was happening. I explained to her if you tell everything it can continue to cause problems, but on the other hand if you do not tell everything you will see a difference in the relationship. Some things are better off quiet than said. My friend, Mae, put some thought into what I said and now their relationship is growing stronger.

"Better to be late than sorry."

My friend said this proverb to me this summer. One day this organization called INROADS came to my high school. They were looking for individuals who were interested in engineering and business. So we both went to the seminar and thought it was boring and left not really caring about it. A week or two passed. I started to notice all my other friends talking about how they were getting interviews with major companies in Birmingham, and how great the INROADS program was. Teachers even began to ask me why I was not in it. So my friend and I begged the lady at the program please to let us join. She was hesitant at first, but after a long talk, she let us in.

Because of her mercy, I received an internship with a major company in Birmingham, starting at $9.38 an hour. My friend also got placed with a company. So it turned out to work out excellently. Recently we were talking to the lady who let us in late, and she was saying that she was glad to see we made it because many people did not. She also teased us and said, "I should not have let your butts in because y'all was late." My friend replied "Yeah, well better to be late than sorry." I agreed with him because these situations will lead to positive things in my life.

"Don't fatten frogs for snakes."

I first heard this proverb about 11 years ago; my grandmother used it frequently. At the time I never understood what it meant, but in time I would. We lived in Illinois at the time and it was hot! My cousins, friends, and I would play baseball all day in the field across the street. At 12:00 noon everyday we would take a break from our games and take what we called a popsicle break. Every Saturday before the next week my grandma would get my cousins and I a freezer filled with popsicles for the next week so we wouldn't be hot. Of course now we were taught to share, but these popsicles were ours not the entire neighborhood. Since I was the giving type, I would always manage to salvage a couple for my friends all while knowing their freezer was filled with popsicles too because our grandma's shopped at the same store at the same time. Somehow she would always call me back into the kitchen and say, "I ain't fattening no frogs for snakes so don't you. " My reaction would usually be "Uh?" At the time I didn't know what she meant, but now I find myself using it in everyday life. Whether it be a situation where I feel I'm being taken advantage of or if I feel I'm taking advantage of someone. To me this proverb means don't make an ass of yourself or be made one. This proverb reminds me to be alert and aware and I use it as a way of life.

"The best among you are those who are best to their womenfolk."

My dad has told this proverb to me and every one of my brothers before we got married. He told me this proverb in Nashville, TN three years ago. This proverb emphasizes Islam's respect for women and, in fact, elevates the man who treats his womenfolk well above him who is not so gentle or respectful to them. It is noteworthy that what is meant by womenfolk here is not only the plural of a woman or a wife but also all other female dependents of the male head of a family. The term "harem" or hareem is one of the most misunderstood expressions in the English language. It does not mean mistresses or concubines. In Arabic, it reflects the Muslim concept of the females of a household such as mothers, daughters, sisters, as well as wives. In other words, the "harem" of the household embraces those females the protection of whom and the respect for whom are incumbent on the man.

"You never miss your water until your well runs dry."

My friend Jamie had an aunt who was very old and lived by herself. She would call for Jamie to come over and spend some time with her, because she was lonely. He would think of something to tell her that he had to do, so that he wouldn't have to go. He had told me that it was boring over there, and there was nothing to do.

About two weeks ago, she died. Her family found her dead in the house, alone. Jamie came crying to me telling me that she died, and all she really wanted for him to do was spend some time with her. I asked Jamie how he felt, now that she was gone. He said, "I miss her." Then I told him, "You never miss your water until your well runs dry." He asked," What does that mean." I said, "You never miss someone or something until it's taking away from you." He ended by saying, "That is so true. I should have spent at least one day out of the week with her. If I could only, but I can't."

"A thief doesn't fit in the mountain."

My grandparents once told me a story about what the old and wise said. Our old people would tell this story to young people so they think twice about stealing from others. The story goes like this, once upon a time there was guy who stole some jewels from her friend. She couldn't wear it herself because her friend would see it; She couldn't sell it because what if her friend found out or became friends with the buyer. She always felt guilty thinking what if she knows but she not telling her. She started avoiding going to her friend's house. Every time her friend called her she got nervous wondering what her friend really wanted. She got to the point where she isolated herself in her house. As a figure of speech they called this "A thief won't fit in the mountain."

"You can often find in rivers what you cannot find in oceans."

This proverb was used by my brother Famal in an ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) convention that I attended this past labor day weekend. When he started his speech, he was very calm and spoke in a regular tone of voice. The topic of his speech was how and why we, the adults, have lost our contact with our children. Towards the middle of his speech he was in a rage, his hands flying everywhere, his face was completely red, and his eyeballs were popping out. Suddenly he stopped everything. His hands were no longer moving and his complexion was once again normal. At this time the place was very quiet. it was so quiet that you could hear many of the fifteen brothers and sisters breathe. He had everyone's undivided attention, and at this time at a low tone of voice he said "you can often find in rivers what you cannot find in oceans." He went on to explain that the reason we don't understand our children is that we don't listen to them. He also added that they have special needs that can only be met if you carefully listen to what they are trying to say.

"Pain is temporary; glory is forever."

I first heard this proverb one day when I was lifting weights at school. I had been working hard and my arms were hurting. Coach Chaney told me to do my next set on bench press. I told him I could not do it because my arms were hurting. He then said to me "Pain is temporary; glory is forever". I thought about what the proverb meant and forced myself to do my last set. What Coach Chaney actually told me was, if I fight the pain it will make me better in the long run. Over time I have discovered that this proverb has a lot of meanings. I use this proverb whenever I am doing something that I don't want to do. Like, when I'm running or doing homework. I am glad Coach Chaney told me this proverb, and I'm sure I will be using it for a long time.

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