When we want to improve our reactions, our ability to handle difficult situations or improve our courage and grit one of the best things we can do for ourselves is study someone who’s done it well in the past. A biography is a wonderful way to glimpse inside someone’s head at their actions, their thoughts and hear in their own voice how they overcame challenge. Using a model, we can internalize those traits and qualities in a low-risk situation. A wonderful and personally challenging biography to seek out is The Hiding Place (ten Boom, 2005) which is the true story of Cordelia (Corrie) and her family as they hide Jews from the Nazi invasion in Holland.
Corrie and her family have a profound and deep-rooted faith that was part of their everyday decision-making. Not only do they claim to have faith, but they also live faith even when it’s hard and even when it costs them. Every member of the ten Boom family from their father in his 80’s to Corrie’s young nieces and nephews are part of the Dutch resistance. Each individual is able to pour out love to strangers because, first, they loved one another. The courage to stand up for others came from loving their own family unconditionally, even when it was hard, even when mistakes were made. The courage to love big and costly comes from practicing loving small and ordinary.
Every member of the ten Boom family stands for what is right in the face of direct and hostile opposition. One of the truly inspiring examples is of Corrie’s father Caspar who is in his 80’s at the time of his arrest. One of the German soldiers has pity on Caspar due to his age and health and says to him, “ I’d like to send you home, old fellow. I’ll take your word that you won’t cause any more trouble” (ten Boom, 2005). What Caspar says in the face of hostile force with the power to give him freedom or certain death is humbling: “If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks”. This is the last time Corrie sees him. As we see and contemplate Caspar’s example, do we have the same courage he has? To say yes, to what we believe in the face of hostile opposition?
The last aspect of Corrie’s life that deserves recognition and emulation is her relationship with her feelings. Many times she is aware of her feelings and that she is frightened, angry, disgusted, or discouraged yet she continues to do her work in spite of her feelings. Corrie also recognizes when her feelings are unhealthy for her. She does something very wise in allowing the feelings to come, to recognize them but then allows them to fade without deterring her from what she knows is right and true. All of us have many feelings on a daily basis and in a crisis the emotion is so strong and close. Perhaps we can learn from Corrie and feel the true depth of the feelings but not let them pull us away from what is right and true. Corrie continued her work on good days and bad days working no matter what her daily feelings were. She also was not working to gain positive feelings and let her feelings wash over her and then fade away without being drawn out to sea in search of them.
Perhaps after reading of the courage of Corrie and the ten Boom family you too can be inspired to take the steps that Corrie took in her life. She loved strangers because she loved those close first. Her family did what was right even when it came with great cost. Lastly, she felt her feelings, and let them come without deterring her from her important work.