Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie were Dutch women and devout Christians who hid Jews in their home during World War II, until the sisters were captured by the Gestapo and imprisoned. When they were transferred to Ravensbruck, the women's concentration camp, and moved into new quarters, their barracks were crawling with fleas. Corrie and Betsie had always been scrupulously clean and these vermin were abhorrent to them. Corrie tells the story:
"Here! And here's another one!" I wailed, "Betsie, how can we live in such a place!" "Show us. Show us how." It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.
"Corrie!" she said excitedly. "He's given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!" I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ... "Here it is: 'Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all... . Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus--(1 Thessalonians 5:14-18)..... .'"
"That's it, Corrie! That's his answer. 'Give thanks in all circumstances!' That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!" I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
"Such as?" I said.
"Such as being assigned here together."
I bit my lip. "Oh yes, Lord Jesus!"
"Such as what you're holding in your hands." I looked down at the Bible. "Yes! Thank you, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank you for all the women, here in this room, who will meet you in these pages."
"Yes," said Betsie, "Thank you for the very crowding here. Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear!"
She looked at me expectantly. "Corrie!" she prodded. "Oh, all right. Thank you for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds."
"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.
But as events turned out, it was Betsie who was right. Both Corrie and Betsie were diligent missionaries, constantly bearing testimony to God, bringing the hope of Christ to women trapped in that dreadful place. Betsie was too sick to go out with the brigades of women workers into the forest where the women had to gather wood. She was assigned to knit stockings for German soldiers; and because there were so many women, Betsie was in a group that had to work in the barracks instead of the work room. She was a lightning knitter who completed her quota ... long before noon. She kept our Bible with her and spent hours each [afternoon] reading aloud from it, moving from [sleeping] platform to platform.
One evening I got back to the barracks late... . Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling. "You're looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself," I told her.
"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. (Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place, [New York: Bantam Books, 1971].)
Regarding thankfulness, President Monson has noted: "Gracias, danke, merci -- whatever language is spoken, 'thank you' frequently expressed will cheer your spirit, broaden your friendships, and lift your lives to a higher pathway as you journey toward perfection. There is a simplicity -- even a sincerity -- when “thank you” is spoken." (Source: President Thomas S. Monson, Think to Thank, Ensign (CR), November 1998, p. 17.)
Here's a website where you can learn how to write "Thank You" in over 465 different languages: http://www.elite.net/~runner/jennifers/thankyou.htm