In O. Henry’s story, Della and Jim, husband and wife, were quite poor. This particular Christmas, they had $1.87 in the wallet—not enough money with which to purchase presents for each other. Yet they found unselfish ways to part with what they considered dear to them in order to magically produce gifts for each other on Christmas Eve.
Both Della and Jim owned irreplaceable possessions. Della had the most lustrous, long hair; it was her pride and joy. Her brown hair cascaded almost to her knees. Jim possessed a gold watch that had been his father’s and grandfather’s; he treasured it for sentimental reasons so saying goodbye to it would be difficult. Yet, Della and Jim made quiet, secretive decisions to sell their treasures in order to make each other’s holiday special.
Della visited Mne. Sofronie’s shop “Hair Goods of All Kinds" and inquired how much the madam would pay Della for her long hair. She was offered $20 and without hesitation, Della ordered the salon owner to cut her hair. With her newly found cash, Della looked for the perfect gift for Jim-- a beautiful platinum fob chain for his beloved watch.
Jim, on the other hand, who had no gloves and wore a torn overcoat, sold his priceless watch for The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. They were beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair.
The story ends, of course, with a moral about making sacrifices—unbelievable losses to provide valuable gifts.
I am also reminded about the story of the three wise men, the Magi who walked afar following a star to give three priceless gifts to someone they did not know—someone they heard about—a king.
Della and Jim were married to each other; their love was unconditional. The Magi, on the other hand, did not know who they were really going to visit. They heard a rumor, followed their instincts and sacrificed their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh--practical gifts— gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. They gave their gifts to an unknown king. Della and Jim’s gifts did not turn out to be practical but in their foolish giving, they realized how much each person was willing to let go of the things they valued in order to make the other person happy.
It is easy to make sacrifices for the people we love and know—and give impractical, foolish gifts; maybe it’s not so easy to give a precious, practical gift to someone we do not know.
So, I am challenging you as well as me to make a sacrifice this holiday season giving something precious and practical not only to someone you know and love but to someone you may not know.
Let’s weave Magi magic in the life of another.