It’s been quite a few years since I read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, but the thing that has stuck out in my mind like I read it yesterday was the part where she described how the terrible flea problem in the bunks ended up being a blessing — the guards didn’t want to come near for risk of being infested themselves. This enabled Corrie just enough space to gain encouragement from the little Bible she’d snuck in, and talking about what it said with a few other prisoners. The fleas were a blessing in disguise.
The other day, Gary and I were talking about his work situation, and he brought up the probability that his being paid poorly has probably saved his job, realistically. They have had many lay-offs in the last three years, and he has managed to escape them so far. I’d been saying that at least he can work in multiple departments for them, which has helped keep him around, and that’s when he mentioned that his place on the food chain has most likely been what has kept him on it at all. He mentioned the names of several employees who were good workers that had a lot of seniority but were let go, all at the top of the pay scale. I found myself being thankful for the frustrating circumstances we’ve been in. It’s a double-edged sword: we don’t make enough to effectively pay our bills, let alone save anything. If he lost his job, we’d be out of our house immediately. And yet, he’s still employed, and the ones in better financial shape are now without work.
It made me think, again (I think about it a lot), about all of the “fleas” we have been provided in the midst of difficulties. Our finances have always been a struggle — not because we’re not good with our money, but simply because we haven’t had money to be good with. But especially as the kids are getting older, I look at them and see where things I have struggled with resenting have provided them/us with invaluable lessons and great character. We barter to pay for their Taekwon-do lessons by cleaning the dojang. Last Friday night when we were all there, (Gary and the kids usually do this), I took notice of how they just all went about their tasks, talking and giggling with each other, etc., and cleaned until the job was done. It was like a well-oiled machine, and I was proud. I was proud of them for working hard, but I was even more proud of their willingness to work for what they want, and the lack of arguing and complaining they do it with. There was a time when I wished I could just write a check each month for their lessons like the other parents, but not any more. The choice to clean or not train has given them more gifts than just lessons — including, in some way, a boost to their self-confidence and pride, and I’m more grateful than I can say.
Gary and I have never really had money to go out on dates, other than an inexpensive meal and/or possibly a movie on our anniversaries, or to do activities with the kids that cost money, like movies or amusement parks or dinner out or that kind of thing. Yet, when people comment about the kids, or about our marriage, or about our family in general, I cannot help but look and see the “fleas” in life that have made us who we are. Not having money for much has been more of a gift to us than anything else, because it’s kept us in a position to choose to make the best of things, to be thankful, to look for the good, to enjoy being together as opposed to just having fun alongside one another, etc. Gary and I don’t need to go out to eat to have a good relationship; we need to focus on spending quality time together, and making sure we are communicating our love and respect and gratitude to each other, and we do. I always thought we’d need to have the latest greatest stuff so the kids and their friends would want to be here, and guess what? We have a very small house and none of the latest stuff, our kids rarely have new clothes or shoes and we don’t even have HBO — and they and their friends love being here. It was never “stuff” we needed in life, it’s been investing in US. We haven’t ever had the resources to pursue material possessions or a nice house or brochure-worthy vacations, and I’m more thankful than I can say, because it’s given us the time and the motivation to simply focus on US; who we are, how we get from day to day together, who we want to be when things are tough, unfair or unfortunate. Are we perfect? Uh, no. Not so much. But we’re HAPPY, and BLESSED, and I’m so eternally grateful for all the “fleas” along the way that have afforded us the chance to be so.
Sometimes the things that seem the worst part of a situation are actually its biggest gift, lying in wait. We need only be willing to look.