A specific question has come up a few times in life. I remember it being asked during a board game called Loaded Questions and also it seems like it was a journal topic in school. The question is this: If you could share a meal and have a conversation with one famous deceased person, who would it be?
I’ve never had a definitive answer to that. Not famous? That’s easy. My friend, Ashly, or any one of my grandparents. Famous? I don’t know. I’m not that easily starstruck and nobody ever stood out to me.
So here I am, thirty-five years old and I finally have an answer to that question. It’s not someone who just died recently. This person died in 1983 when I was three years old, but I just learned of her and she has gained my respect and admiration.
A few weeks ago, in my short morning devotional, I read a few sentences about an experience had in a concentration camp by Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsie. Corrie’s autobiography, The Hiding Place, was referenced. I like to prop up my Kindle in front of me and read it while I dry my hair every morning, so I checked the Kindle store for The Hiding Place and downloaded a sample. After reading the sample, I knew it would be worth the $7 or $8 to purchase the book, so I bought it.
I find a lot of books that I’m happy to read for a few minutes in the morning and they make it tolerable to sit under the heat of my hairdryer for a few minutes, but this book was incredible. It went beyond just a book to read while drying my hair. When I wasn’t reading, I wanted to be reading. I read it any chance I got.
I was fascinated by the story of this Christian family in Holland who was arrested and imprisoned at a concentration camp because they were helping Jews during World War II. Corrie ten Boom orchestrated an underground operation to help keep Jews safe and fed and alive. They were caught and punished for it. Corrie’s mother had passed away years earlier, her brother and one sister were married with families of their own, but Betsie and Corrie were both single and lived and worked with their father in his watch shop. Their father, Casper, was such a kind man and was loved by their whole town. Betsie was so genuinely kind and nurturing. Corrie was bold and brave but also had her moments of indifference and sarcasm. She reminded me of myself in some ways.
While reading this book, there were times I wanted to hug them, like when Casper, in his eighties, was going to be released just after his arrest since he was so old, as long as he assured them he wouldn’t cause any more trouble. His response was, “If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.”
Or when Corrie was having her hearing and being questioned by a Nazi lieutenant about her activities. She didn’t want to mention anything about the Jews hiding in her home, so she talked about other “activities” and mentioned her church for mentally retarded people. The lieutenant responded, “What a waste of time and energy! If you want converts, surely one normal person is worth all the half-wits in the world!” Corrie boldly replied, “The truth, sir, is that God’s viewpoint is sometimes different from ours – so different that we could not even guess at it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things. In the Bible I learned that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us. Who knows, in His eyes, a half-wit may be worth more than a watchmaker. Or – a lieutenant.”
There were other times I wanted to come to their defense – like when a prison guard showed such a complete lack of compassion to Corrie when she received the news that her beloved father had died. The guard’s treatment of her was so disgusting to me that it made me wish I could have done something about it or defended her in some way.
There were several times I laughed while reading this book. Corrie’s memories of her aunts who lived with them while she was a child were funny. One of the Jewish men they housed made me laugh. There were even a few laughs while reading about their time in the concentration camps, believe it or not.
Her story is absolutely remarkable. Corrie and Betsie risked their own lives and safety in the concentration camps by smuggling in a Bible and telling the other prisoners about Jesus and the love of God. I was completely blown away and inspired by this book. I ordered it in paperback after finishing it on my Kindle, because it deserves a spot on a bookshelf next to some other favorite books. It’s one that needs to be read more than once and I like to have tangible copies of my favorites.
So there’s my answer to the question; I would share a meal and conversation with Corrie ten Boom. And if we could squeeze a couple of extra chairs up to the table, I’d invite Betsie and Casper. I want to hug them all. One day I will.