“A good man needs no recommendation, it does a bad one no good.”– Yiddish Proverb
My grandfather told my mother the story of his plane going down over Japan. After a rough landing, in bad shape, he staggered to a nearby village, where, surprisingly, he explained, the local citizens treated this enemy soldier with kindness until he could return to his base.
After World War II, Grandpa remained in the country, and grew to love Japan and its people.
One of his best memories, my mother recalls, was playing baseball with the children.
Years later, raising a family in the states, he spoke Yiddish with my grandmother when they didn’t want their conversations understood by my mother and her siblings. Assimilated into American society, there was little need to speak the language elsewhere, and my mother never fully learned it. It’s my ancestral language, not only decimated by the Holocaust, but lost between generations.
I recently began studying Yiddish through an online program with my mother, and Japanese through university classes, not only to honor my grandpa, but for my own growth, identity, and, hopefully, future opportunities. Searching through books of proverbs from both languages, I found one in Yiddish Proverbs, edited by Hanan J. Ayalti, involving kindness that speaks to me.
“A good man needs no recommendation, it does a bad one no good.”
To me, it says that being kind speaks for itself, just as being unkind does. While it’s not always voiced, others take notice of our actions. Kindness can be cathartic for your soul, but it can also impact others’ perceptions of you. Maybe the people my grandfather encountered after parachuting to safety recognized the kindness in him, and so they were kind in return.
I try to emulate the “good man” part of the proverb each day. I remember Grandpa as a good, loving man, who always wanted to spend time with family and teach me something. I think that part of the proverb fit him perfectly.
Weber State University