Thanks for the fleas

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for—”

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.” (The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom, 210)

One of my favorite stories of gratitude comes from this beautiful story of a family who suffered the worst horrors of the Holocaust, not because they were Jewish, but because they risked their lives helping the people who were being hunted. They made it through that experience on faith, hope, love, and gratitude–even gratitude for the fleas. And as we learn later in the book, after Corrie and her sister spend weeks with inexplicable freedom to discuss religion in the midst of concentration camp, they find that even the fleas were there for a higher purpose:

“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well—I’ve found out.”

That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”

My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for. (220)

This week and always, may we have the perspective to give thanks for the fleas.



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