Jamaica Patois Wisdom - Foresight

by Jefferson David Tant

The Jamaican Patois dialect is colorful, unique and humorous. It is my desire to share some of the philosophy shown in this mix of colorful phrases that are witty as well as thought-provoking. I hope the readers both profit and enjoy. In my quarter-century plus of teaching there, I have come to appreciate some things about their culture.

AntPatois: Every likkle mek a muckle

English: Every little bit adds up to much

Meaning: If you begin to save small amounts it will lead to big savings

Adam Clarke says "the ant, is a remarkable creature for foresight, industry, and economy." Evidently God also thinks the ant is pretty smart, for he inspired Solomon to write about the ant. "Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 'A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest' -- your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man" (Proverbs 6:6-11).

Clarke's comment indicates that ants plan for the future, work hard, and are careful to save. What a great lesson for  the larger inhabitants of the earth — people. It seems that a welfare class has been created that expects to live off of the labor of others. I saw a man interviewed on TV the other day. This was an able-bodied young man in his 20's, who enjoys a life of surfing, drinking, partying, playing music, etc. He expressed no interest in getting a job to provide for his needs. He gets a regular government welfare check, borrows from friends, and makes his bed in different friends' homes from night to night.

Even Job 12:7 has a lesson for us: "But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you." They also make provisions for themselves.

Evidently slothfulness is not a new problem, for Paul had to address the matter in his letter to Thessalonica. "For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread" (II Thessalonians 3:10-12).

Labor is honorable, for it is ordained of God, as God told Adam that he must labor "by the sweat of his face" (Genesis 3:19). There is honor even in a menial job. Others may not honor a ditch-digger or a ham-burger flipper, but God will give honor. I know that jobs are sometimes not plentiful, but that's where persistence comes in. When I was 18 and out of high school in the small town of Lufkin, Texas, I went to 33 different places before finding a job working the night shift in a foundry. It was hard, dirty work for not much pay. But I had a job! I was doing honest labor. I was preparing for my future.

But back to the Patois saying. You may not make much money, but if you save even a little bit from every paycheck, it will add up over time. Saving just $10 a week for five years will amount to $2,600. That's a good sum of money that can be used for a sizeable purchase, and you won't even have to pay interest because you have not borrowed the money. My father urged me to take even a small sum out of every paycheck and put it aside. That was good advice in 1950, and it is still good advice today. The savings for some might come from just giving up two cups of Starbucks coffee a week.

If you will do this, you will not only show wisdom in providing for your own needs, but it will help you to be a blessing to others. "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Galatians 6:10). Remember: "Every likkle mek a muckle."