Thank God for the Fleas

With the economy struggling and a newly elected President using his majority in the House and Senate to do things I question, I keep reminding myself to give it time. Just because Obama is doing things differently doesn’t mean he’s wrong. For the sake of us all, I pray that he’s right!

In trying to decide what to post today, I ran across an article I wrote in 1997. I’ll update it a bit, but leave the basic message as it is. The message? Thank God for the fleas.

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This Thanksgiving, I’ll be in London, England. I’ll be away from my loved ones and I doubt very much I’ll be able to find a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. I won’t be able to watch the traditional football games. I won’t even be able to get the day off from work. Yet, when I finally sit down for dinner, even if it’s nothing more than fish and chips, I’ll bow my head and say “Thank you, God, for the fleas.”

I’ll be stealing that prayer from a woman named Corrie Tin Boom who wrote a book entitled “The Hiding Place.” Corrie and her sister, Dutch Jews, survived a Nazi concentration camp. Her book tells of their experiences during World War II.

The sisters, like many Jews, were hidden by friends in a secret room. Eventually, the Nazis found them and sent them to a camp. The barracks in which they lived for the remainder of the war was infested with fleas. Every evening, during their prayers (which were against the Nazi rules and punishable by death), they would thank God for the fleas. Their thinking was that God had a reason for all things; whether or not they understood the purpose of the flea bites, there must have been a reason. Therefore, they thanked God.

Years later, the sisters met one of their former guards. In their conversation with him, he unwittingly disclosed how God had protected them from being discovered during their prayers. “None of the guards wanted to go near that building.” The former Nazi confided. “Those fleas were terrible!”

Thank God for the fleas.

Over the years, I’ve come to see many things as “fleas.” Fleas are the bad things that come with the good. We seldom understand the value of the bad things until years later. Some things we may never understand.

Last year at this time, I was between positions. That’s the fancy way of saying “out of work” or “unemployed.” For most of 1996, I was between positions. This year started off the same way. My friends, family, and I prayed constantly that I would find something. I had exhausted my savings, had borrowed heavily from friends and relatives, and was on the verge of losing everything. Then I got the phone call.

Since May, I’ve been working in Connecticut. I left for London in the beginning of October. I’ll be in London until the beginning of December. Then, it’ll be back to Connecticut. In seven months, I’ve been home less then four weeks.

I’m tired of living in hotels and eating at restaurants. I miss being able to sit down and relax in my own easy chair. I hate having to dial 30 or 40 numbers to talk to friends and family back home. Being on the road constantly is a royal pain in the butt. BUT, I thank God for the fleas.

I get paid by the hour (in September, I put in over 200 hours) and all my travel expenses are reimbursed. I’ve been able to repay most of my debts and, if the project continues, I’ll be able to put a good bit away for the next time I find myself “between positions.”

Last Christmas was painful for me. I have four children and two daughters-in-law. I like to make their Christmas merry by giving them things they really need or want. Last year, I couldn’t afford to give them much of anything. This year, thanks to the fleas, I’ll be able to give them much more.

The “fleas” of being away from home have shown me other things for which I’m very thankful. My best friend, Lu, has demonstrated just how wonderful and important she is to me. She has faithfully taken care of my dogs and our garden, and she has driven hundreds of miles to take me to, and pick me up at, the airport. She has kept my home looking better than it ever does when I’m around for any length of time. She even does the dusting!

I’m also thankful to my two oldest sons and their wives. They keep track of my schedule so we can get together during my infrequent visits home. Kenn uses e-mail to keep me up-to-date on my granddaughter, Rachel, and tells me he has a video of her that I’ll be able to see… eventually. Hopefully, I’ll be able to witness her first steps and her first words even if I’m out of town at the time of the momentous occasions. Thank God for modern technology!

We all go through trying times. Those difficulties are much easier to cope with if we can look beyond and try to find the blessings. If I find myself having a Thanksgiving meal of “bangers and mash” (a British meal of hot dogs and mashed potatoes) I’ll remind myself that I could be in Atlanta having a turkey dinner… compliments of Hosea Williams. Or I could be spending the night at one of the homeless shelters. Those thoughts will make it much easier for me to see the blessing of being able to pay for my own meal – regardless of what it is – and paying for my own lodging.

Those thoughts also put things in a much better perspective. Things could be far worse. My fleas are nothing compared to the problems faced by so many other people. Although some folks might find it more difficult to say, “Thanks for the fleas,” I think we can all benefit by looking for the hidden blessings in life. We have to take the good with the bad. When we can see the goodness in the bad, life is even better.

I’ll close this article by taking my prayer a step farther. Not only do I thank God for the fleas, I also thank God that I’ve been able to see the blessings brought by the fleas.

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2 Responses to Thank God for the Fleas

  1. Teresa Drake says:

    I’m in the final phases of “The Hiding Place” and find myself fascinated by Corrie Tin Boom’s story, so I googled her name. Your blog came up and I clicked through. But, I’m disappointed! Corrie and her family were Christians — not Dutch Jews. She did not thank God for fleas, her sister Betsy thanked God for fleas. And during their stay at the prison work camp, both Betsy and Corrie discovered the guards wouldn’t enter the room with the knitting crew because of the fleas. Corrie did NOT have to meet up later with a guard to discover this — at least, that’s what the book has to say about it. Have you read the book?

    • jimsjourney says:

      Yes. I did read the book… about twenty-five years ago. Obviously my memory is not as good as I thought. Thanks for setting the record straight.

      Now, with that said, do my mistakes negate the main gist of my article? Regardless of the details I garbled, shouldn’t we still be thankful for everything? Isn’t there always a possibility that there is a blessing hidden in much of the negative stuff that happens to us?

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