Maybe you remember O. Henry’s short tale about the poor couple who loved each other so much that they each desired to purchase the perfect Christmas gift for their spouse. Times were hard for Della and Jim. They were surviving on $20 a week in an $8 flat, but there was nothing left over for extravagant giving. The only extravagant things they had were Della’s long, luxurious hair and Jim’s gold watch, passed down from his father and grandfather. Both had significant meaning for the couple and helped to make the tough times easier to bear.
Della’s desire to give her husband an extraordinary gift outweighed her love for her hair, and she found herself at the hair goods shop selling it for $20. She spent the rest of the afternoon searching all the shops in town for the perfect gift until she came across a platinum fob chain that Jim could use with his wonderful watch. She couldn’t wait for him to see it!
When Jim arrived home later that evening, he was dumbstruck at the sight of his wife’s short hair. She told him how she had sold it to earn enough money for his Christmas present and assured him that it would grow back quickly. Still, it took him several minutes to recover. After assuring Della that the length of her hair could never change his love for her, he showed her a package he had been holding. It was his Christmas present for her… a set of pure, tortoise-shell combs with jeweled rims. Della had long admired them in the storefront window and imagined pulling them through her long hair even though she knew it was an impossible dream.
Realizing the sad irony in the gift, she looked up and reminded Jim how fast her hair would grow. Then, remembering her present for him, she held out the watch chain enthusiastically. Again dismayed, it was several minutes before he confessed to Della that he had sold the watch in order to have the money to buy the combs.
The greatest gifts always require sacrifice. It is the sacrifice that makes them precious. The last two pennies of a widow are far more precious than thousands of dollars from a millionaire. O. Henry concludes his story by telling us that these two foolish people are really the wisest of all who give and receive gifts. They are the magi, for they know the secret joy of giving what you cannot bear to lose. This season, why not commit to giving at least one gift that costs us something more than money.