Mennonite Heritage Village

The Proverb

June 22, 2023

By Gary Dyck

A proverb is the wit of one, and the wisdom of many.”

-Lord John Russell

A proverb is a folk piece of wisdom expressed through brief sentences handed down from generation to generation. Life is complex and sometimes we need quick and memorable wisdom to guide us. Every culture develops wise sayings based on their common ethos, traditions, and particular context.

Here are three reasons why proverbs consist of brief sentences:

1. Repeatable. Proverbs are often rhythmic and easy to repeat to oneself and others. This provides the community a common way to communicate about life that is easy to spread while providing the next generation on-ramps to important life understanding.

2. Relatable. Proverbs often refer to experiences that most people know and can relate to. They draw conclusions that most people would have drawn but in small creative nuggets offer find just the right ‘play on words’.

3. Reliable. The short, punchy style of proverbs enables them to be passed on easily so that the meaning and purpose is carried between listeners. After hearing a proverb a couple of times, the brain makes connections that this is a trustworthy saying because it makes sense in their context and comes from more than just one person.

Proverbs may have simple sentence structures, but they carry centuries of wisdom that answer difficult life questions for a specific social environment. Some of us have twenty years of life experience, some have seventy, but proverbs have centuries.

At Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) we showcase the Mennonite experience of the past five centuries. These years included many challenges, tragedies, and accomplishments. With experience comes wisdom. How sad, that today we know so few proverbs and stories from the collective wisdom of our heritages.

As often migratory people, Mennonites could only bring a few items from one part of the world to another. Many things were lost or left behind. However, there were several intangible treasures they could always bring, including the many proverbs they had learned in Low German (LG). For many of these proverbs, “inspiration came from the Bible, the barnyard, the plow, the seasons, the social order of medieval lord and serf, and out of the natural cycles of birth, life and death” (Isaias J. McCaffery, Mennonite Low German Proverbs from Kansas).

Most in my generation and the next no longer speak LG, but if we could learn some proverbs we will carry with us a wealth of wisdom and culture for ourselves and the next generation(s).

I’ll close with this Low German proverb:

Tiet(Ziet) bringt Roose.

Time brings roses.

Meaning: in time life brings rewards. If your life is presently in the gloom of winter, spring will eventually arrive. Patience is a virtue backed by faith. This proverb shows the Mennonite understanding of how life is lived in seasons, not days and minutes.

Upcoming Events:

MHV’s grounds and Livery Barn Restaurant are open seven days a week! The restaurant is open 11am to 4pm, and the grounds are open 9am to 5pm, except Thursdays 9am to 8pm, and Sundays 11:30am to 5pm, including our famous Sunday buffet till 2pm.

RocketRez Canada Day Celebration, July 1, 9am to 5pm. Our RocketRez Canada Day Celebration returns for 2023! Join us for a day of celebratory activities! This free admission event is open to the public. Enjoy tours, birthday cake, entertainment, rides, and a meal at the Livery Barn Restaurant.

MHV’s Summer Day Camp (several weeks – see Registration is still open for some of the weeks and age groups. Let us know if you have a child who would enjoy a week learning a variety of heritage skills, history and having fun in MHV’s outdoor village.