"Give a man to fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime."
Surely you've heard this pithy saying before. If you've ever been within 100 feet of a nonprofit agency, you've probably heard it more than once. You can switch the order around (although it's far less effective this way) or make it an "if...then proposition."
I first came across the proverb early in my tenure here at JVS when a donor to one of JVS signature training programs explained his philosophy with that very saying. (This donor likes to keep a low profile and shall therefore remain cloaked).
"I'd rather teach someone to fish than give them food," he said.
Sounded great to me because I had never heard the expression before. It was suggested to me that the quote might have come from Jesus.
Nope. Per Answers.com - which has never been wrong - the proverb's origin is unknown, although it has often been mis-attributed to Confucius, Lao Tzu, Laozi, and Guan Zhong.
It's not in the Bible. Maimonides never uttered the phrase, although the idea behind giving someone a trade is every bit part of the mission of the Jewish Educational Trade School (JETS) in the San Fernando Valley.
Convinced I might have found a respite from the proverb at least for a little while, I opened up the December-January issue of TRIBE Magazine which - not at all coincidentally - features a story on, yup, JVS training programs including BankWork$, HealthWorks and Veterans First.
It's a great article written by Julie Bien. You'll find it on page 25 in the Tikkun Olam section. Or read it online here.
The article's title? You guessed it: "Teach a Man to Fish."
Guess that means JVS is in the fishing-teaching business. And proud of it.