“For it is in giving that we receive . . .” – St. Francis of Assisi
In The Gift of the Magi, arguably O. Henry’s most famous short story, he tells about Della who had the most beautiful hair. It was her pride and joy, a gift from God that she had allowed to grow for years so that when she let it completely down it flowed practically to her knees. Her husband Jim adored her hair too, almost as much as he adored her, as they adored each other. Christmas was approaching and Della had been squeezing every penny she could from her household budget to buy Jim a really special gift, but as with many young couples starting out in life money was tight and she had been unable to add much to the cookie jar. It was Christmas Eve, she was out of time. Desperate, she had but one option. Her gorgeous hair could be sold for a substantial sum, so she decided to sacrifice it in order to fulfill her dream of buying Jim that special gift, a gold chain for the watch he cherished, a family heirloom handed down to him by his father who had inherited it from Jim’s grandfather. It was the perfect gift.
After arriving home from work on Christmas Eve as the couple sat down for their evening meal Jim produced from his coat pocket a small, wrapped package, a surprise for his beloved Della. Opening it Della gasped. It was a set of jeweled combs Della had admired in one of the store windows, perfect for the long flowing hair she once had, until she sold it to purchase the watch chain. Except, Jim who had dreamed of giving his wife the perfect gift had sold his precious family heirloom watch in order to afford the combs.
Several years ago my wife Tee noticed that the diamond drop necklace I had given her as a wedding gift many years before was missing. The chain had obviously broken, and the necklace had fallen from her neck. For months she grieved over the loss of her necklace until six months later after a miraculous series of events it was recovered.
What I learned from that incident was that Tee’s distress was not so much about the material loss, except for the sacred symbolism of it, which was the gift of our life-long love for each other. So it was that in an amazing twist of irony, Della and Jim in sacrificing their most treasured earthly possessions for each other, received something far more precious, the depth of their love for one another. “For,” St. Francis reminds us, “it is in giving that we receive.”