Mensches and the American Way

Often I write about how we are pieces of a movement that enriches the world.  It’s the ‘Merican way.  If you do your genealogy, you know that.  Many Americans have enriched the world through medical research, industrial research and computer research among other ways.  What do I mean?

Well, ours is the country large enough and free enough to conduct a medical business that has money left over, a surplus, with which to invent new medicines and machines that will help people get well.  Other countries have medical systems that are dominated by government.  Their government has taken away all incentives to produce new medicines and machines.  They rely on the United States.  When the US becomes like them, its incentives will evaporate.

My own background is in industry.  I cannot tell you because I do not remember how many of my inventions and methods were used to manufacture devices in a less costly manner so that poor people could afford them.  Most of these devices were useful in removing dirt and germs, so people lived better.   And they had jobs they could depend on.

Of course, the computer industry revitalized our economy in the 1980’s.  Not only did we get a useful product, the computer, but also we got a lot of jobs for people.  Wealth was created.  We were free enough to evolve an entirely new industry the rest of the world did not have.  So we all have benefited .

Who was the guy that invented the computer hard drive?  I don’t know.  But I know he was a piece of the pattern that produced fast, long-lasting computer machines.  And that is about all we can hope for—to be a piece of the pattern.  Just as our forefathers and mothers were part of the pattern, adding a nip here and a tuck there in the human quilt, voting for the kind of place they wanted their children to grow up in.

Yesterday, I got word that my brother-in-law died.  He had been a professor of some arcane subject in the mechanical engineering school of a large state university.  Using his knowledge he developed tomorrow’s inventors.   He also came up with some pretty good ideas, himself.  But he had another attribute.  He was a mensch.

Ordinarily, I do not like to use foreign words when I write.  I love the English language (which is about 59% Latin).  But we don’t have the word for everything.  A mensch, if you don’t know, is Yiddish for

“Someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.”

(I found this definition on an interesting blog:

It was wonderful to have such a man in the family:  quiet, unassuming and brilliant.  He wasn’t a mensch because he was a professor.  He was a mensch because of  his life pattern of conduct.  The fact that he was interested in genealogy, the fact that he was a very good pianist and the fact that he was a fine Christian person had nothing to do with his mensch-ness.  That was because he chose to live a certain way and he stuck with it.

His name was David Shippy, PhD.  He was called professor but his real occupation was to contribute to society and his country in a positive way for as long as he could.   In that occupation he was successful.  His two children are contributors as well.  An attitude like Dave’s is contagious.  We’ll probably never know how large his contribution was, but you can bet it was big and red and fit extremely well in the fabric of  our social well-being.  And it will last for a long time.  But you have to stand back to see it.  The whole thing has been growing for over two hundred and thirty years.