Della and Jim, a young married couple, are very much in love. They live modestly, able to afford groceries and pay their rent, but there is nothing left over for extras, including savings. It’s Christmas Eve and Della only has $1.87 to buy Jim a Christmas gift. Desperate to find something perfect for him, she ends up selling her hair to a neighborhood beauty salon and uses the money to buy a platinum gold chain for the cherished pocket watch Jim inherited from his father. She can hardly wait for him to come home to surprise him with the gift.
When Jim comes home from work he can’t believe his eyes. “You cut your hair?” “Your hair is gone?” Della fears that Jim no longer finds her pretty without long hair. She admits to him that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Then Jim gives Della her present, a beautiful set of jeweled hair combs she had long admired, but never thought she’d receive. Now that her hair is short the combs are useless. Della shows Jim the watch chain she bought for him, and he tells her he sold his watch to get her the combs.
O. Henry, the author of the story, “The Gift of The Magi,” reminds us that even though Jim and Della are left with hair combs and a watch chain that are functionally useless, the real gift is their willingness to give up something cherished as an expression of their love for one another. The real gift is the gift of love and the story behind the gift.
A thing gains value based on its story. The gift is never as important as the story it tells.The most sentimental things aren’t things at all, but stories of the people and places we love, and the parts of ourselves we share.
Linda was a young single mother of eight-year-old twin daughters. She was in the last stages of cancer with little hope of survival unless she received a particular form of chemotherapy. Even then her chances were minimal, but there was still hope. She had no health insurance and the cost of the treatment, $600,000, was prohibitive. In a last attempt to save her life, Linda’s sister contacted the pharmaceutical company, and told them Linda’s story. As it turns out the company had a program for people in need. To everyone’s surprise, including Linda’s medical team, the pharmaceutical company granted the chemotherapy as a gift.
Unfortunately for Linda it was too late. But when you give lovingly from your heart, you never know who might benefit. The following year, around Christmas time, Linda’s sister received a note from a man she didn’t know which said, “I have my holidays to look forward to because of a gift I received. Medications intended for your sister became available for my wife’s cancer treatment and saved her life. Thank you.” He had spent the better part of a year tracking down Linda’s sister to express his gratitude. While Linda’s sister still wishes that Linda could have benefitted from the treatment, she cherishes the gift of gratitude received from a total stranger.
The impulse of love that flows through the heart is what moves us to give. It’s what motivated Linda’s sister to call the pharmaceutical company to ask for help. It’s what motivated Della and Jim to sacrifice something they valued to be able to give to each other. It’s what motivated a grateful husband to search for and find the woman responsible for securing medication that saved his wife’s life. So when you feel moved to give, do it. Don’t stop the pure flow of love in your heart. Holding back the desire to give is painful. Give all you have to each moment, holding nothing back. When you give, you are in alignment with the flow of life itself.
Start living life by paying attention to your gifts, the ones you give and the ones you receive. What is the story the gift you are giving tells? What is the story behind the gift you are receiving? Don’t just focus on the thing. Remember, the most precious gifts of all are the gifts that tell a story. Cherish the story as much as the gift, and then make sure you tell the story.