The Gift of the Magi Reflection
by Payton Carty
I had never read The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry until this Christmas season. Being on staff at Beautiful Feet Books I’m blessed to be surrounded by beautiful children’s literature at every turn. Recently, The Gift of the Magi had been sitting on my desk as it was our feature book for our holiday giveaway. I kept telling myself to take 10 minutes out of my day and read it. Days flew by when I finally glanced down and Lisbeth Zwerger’s gentle cover illustration was calling my name! Alas, I read, and was spellbound by the story that unfolded.
This wonderful tale offers so much wisdom. Rea Berg said it so eloquently in her reflection on the book, “Their sacrificial gifts illuminate and reflect the profound lesson of the ultimate divine gift–the gift which costs that which is most dear.”
After I finished the book I began to ponder each person in my life that I loved; wondering what I could lay down to demonstrate the depth of my love for them this season. I began to think of wild ideas like plane tickets, art projects, letters, and handcrafted journals. Within seconds, I felt like something made me pause. I thought about my bank account, I don’t know about a plane ticket, they’re too expensive. Those art projects? I don’t know how to watercolor. Objections came at me like a swarm of bees. I began to be weighed down by a sense of lacking the necessary skill or knowledge, not having enough time, and feeling like I didn’t have enough money. Della and James felt this too. The opening pages describe their financial status bluntly when Della proclaims, “one dollar and eight seven cents. That was all.” Della then flops down on their shabby couch and cries!
Della wasn’t living in denial of her financial lack. She was very aware of it. She wanted to give James a gift and she was facing the reality of her circumstances. Have you been there? I know I have. But I often try to skip this step. I don’t want to face the reality of my perceived lack of time, money, or abilities. Too often I let my circumstances determine my giving.
What makes this story so powerful is James and Della’s sacrifice, to lay down something they truly value, in order to express their love for one another. In a time where money was scarce for the newlywed couple, I can only imagine the anxiety that may have been under the surface. Did they question whether or not they should even spend money this Christmas? Did their parents advise them to be on a budget plan? Were they worried about next month's rent? Did they talk over dinner about how they would save money?
Amidst all these uncertainties their love for one another triumphed. In the end they choose to express their love through sacrifice. For Della, her hair. For James, his watch.
This story has changed my view of gift-giving forever. I’ve taken inventory of my heart. What am I willing to lay down this Christmas to express my love for those I care about?
An easy, practical way to do this is to myself these three questions:
Is there an area where my lack of finances is holding me back?
Am I too busy?
Am I too afraid to try something because I don’t know how to do it?
These questions help me uncover the areas in my life where sacrifice is difficult. Once I’m aware I’m able to choose to let go and lay something down for someone else, just like James and Della did.
For example, I began to wonder, does my Dad need another expensive gadget from me that I can easily order off Amazon? Or would he beam if I created an opportunity for us to share time together?
Or my sister, she recently told me one of my sketches would look beautiful as a poster in her apartment. But if I’m honest, I don't feel like my art is good enough. But if I took the time to create an art piece, I know it would mean the world to her. Am I willing to take the time, be brave, and try something new?
As Christmas is around the corner, I encourage you to think about this remarkable story of sacrificial giving. I hope this book reinforces your natural desire to give from the heart. I know it did for me.
Well, I’m off to sketch for the next hour!