A good short story manages to say so much about life and love in just a few pages. And to me, O. Henry’s beloved Christmas tale, “The Gift of the Magi” remains the gold standard for packing both an emotional punch and a wealth of wisdom in a scant 2,000 words.
Henry tells the tale of an impoverished young couple in New York. It’s Christmas Eve, and each longs to buy the other a truly special gift. The young wife sells her beautiful hair so that she can buy a watch chain to complement her husband’s one luxurious possession. When she gives it to him, he reveals that he has sold his fancy watch in order to buy her a beautiful set of combs for her now vanished tresses. And in the final words of the story, Henry’s folksy, worldly wise narrator observes…
“And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”
The husband and wife have sacrificed so much only to ensure that each presents the other with a useless gift and yet, what all of us who know and love this story remember is its gentle lesson in what is really precious. Every Christmas, I reread The Gift of the Magi. And every Christmas, it inspires me to stop amidst the frantic shopping, cooking and planning of the season and leave at least a little time to enjoy the season’s true gifts.
To read an excerpt of Helen’s short story, “Tribes”, CLICK HERE.
“Tribes” is now available in its entirety in MEMOIR, VOL. 1 in iTunes MEMOIR, VOL. 1.