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How Many Tears Have Been Shed In the Past 116 Years?

December 14, 2021

Oh sure, there have been plenty, but I’m specifically thinking about a tears because a man chose to write some words on a piece of paper and people kept reading it.

My family has a Christmas tradition that we take turns reading Christmas stories each evening in December. I decided to read my one of my favorite stories, “The Gift Of The Magi” by O. Henry.

First off, the story isn’t about the Magi, the wise men from the East who came to visit the toddler Jesus. They probably arrived several years after his birth. And we don’t know how many there were. We assume there were three because they brought three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh.

“The Gift of the Magi” isn’t about those guys at all. And in fact, other than it being about giving gifts at Christmas it doesn’t have a very religious theme to it at all.

O. Henry wrote it in 1905. O. Henry is a pseudonym for William Sydney Porter.

The story is short. It can be read in less than 15 minutes. And as I read for my lovely wife and daughter, I found I couldn’t get through it. Probably because I knew what was coming later in the story, I found myself choking up and tearing up multiple times.

The story is about a poor young couple who attempt to get Christmas gifts for each other. We mostly stay with Della, the wife. He has $1.87 to buy Jim a gift. O. Henry uses repetition to great effect. Again and again we are reminded about that dollar and change. That would be about $59 in 2021 dollars. I’m not sure the story would be as poignant if it were updated to modern times.

I mean, you can buy a pretty nice gift for $60. But, $1.87? No way.

The story, like all good short stories has a twist. I won’t spoil it. Although the thought of putting a spoiler alert on a 116 year old story might be unnecessary.

I think I cry every time I read that story. Even now, thinking about the tale that O. Henry weaves for us, I ache for the young lovers and their attempts to put the needs of their spouse ahead of their own wants and needs.

And then, at the very end, O. Henry reminds us of how the Magi gifts symbolize all our gifts to others.

If you haven’t read the Gift of the Magi, you can find a copy here. (The copyright lapsed long ago.)

What Christmas tradition make YOU cry?

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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