I recently finished the book "The Hiding Place," by Corrie ten Boom (CTB). There are multiple reasons why I liked it. It's a true story. As a writer, I enjoyed the authentic details added to each setting, the small things that gave added depth to my understanding of CTB and her story. In addition, I loved CTB's...self-exposure, I guess. She seemed honest about her motives and weaknesses, and I think that's something that's hard for lots of us to do, especially when we are portraying ourselves to other people.
Ten Boom's sister Betsie reminded me of the sister Beth in Little Women. Too good. Too faithful. Too good to be true. And yet, I probably think that because I am more like ten Boom and am significantly more flawed. I try to be generous, but my generosity can fail me when I believe that people should get their just desserts. It was Betsie's example, though, that inspired CTB to keep going once Betsie died and to keep spreading the message of what had happened to them in the concentration camps as well as the message of hope that Christ can save everyone. Ten Boom was a willing but flawed messenger. She knew she was flawed. She knew she was weak. But she knew that, because of her sister and her sister's example, she had to do what was right. I like to think that ten Boom would have done right anyway, just because she knew what was right, and sometimes we have to do things that are hard and gain the testimony of them later. I like to think that mostly because I saw a lot of myself in ten Boom, and I'd like to think that even though I was in survival mode and hating the people who were making me live like less than an animal, that I would somehow still be able to find the peace and humility that CTB found.
One of the other things I liked about this story (I say story, but it's a true account) is the moments of brilliance in the darkness. So many times it showed how small things brought about great happiness. Ten Boom was complaining about the fleas to Betsie, and Betsie told her that God had commanded them to be thankful in all things, and didn't that include the fleas? Later, it turned out that there were certain places the prison guards would never go (and thus could not harass the prisoners there) because of the fleas. Ten Boom was in a solitary cell and had no one to talk to, and became friends with the ants that always came out when she left crumbs for them from her bread. So many times there were examples of people who did small things just because they could, just because it was right. CTB talked about how, when she and her sister originally arrived at Ravensbruck, all the women there were mean and self-serving, in survival mode, only worried about themselves. Then, through Betsie's influence, everyone became more compassionate and tolerant. They sang songs together, shared what few resources they had, helped each other to not be sick and to stand up during roll call so they wouldn't be killed. In the very worst and demeaning of circumstances, they found reasons to have joy and ways to make other people happy.
I was thinking about this today because a friend on FB posted an article about how some modern philosophers think that children who have parents to read to them have an unfair advantage over children who don't. They argued that maybe parents should be restricted as to how much they should be able to read to their children. The most extreme argument suggested that families should be abolished all together and that children should be raised by the government. It baffles me that anyone would think that bringing people down instead of raising people up would be more for the greater good. That, when times are hard, we should make times hard for everyone, instead of helping them and teaching them how to make their lives better.
In both these instances, in Corrie ten Boom's life and in this article, what we are really talking about is children of God. I feel sappy even typing that, but that's what it's really about. CTB made choices in her life. She wasn't a Jew. But she chose to help them, because she could, and it was the right thing to do. Her choices caused her to be imprisoned in a concentration camp and to lose both her sister and her father. But she did it because she had that light, and she knew that, given that light, she had a responsibility. In this article, what these "philosophers" are talking about is extinguishing light, extinguishing hope. They want to bring everyone to the lowest common denominator. To me this seems to deny both our divine heritage and our divine potential.
As children of God, we are capable of great things. Most of the time, those great things are accomplished through small things. Those small things should include raising people up and teaching them to raise themselves up, not pulling everyone down. We have so much to give, every one of us.