As the holidays approach, I am often reminded of my former ninth-grade English students, who were introduced to the art of storytelling during the month of December each year.

No other time was as opportune to teach the true value of giving gifts, that wealth is not tangible; it cannot physically be seen. This is the surprise my students came to realize, that making others happy is the true gift of the season.

Published on December 10, 1905, O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” tells the tale of Della and Jim, both faced with the inability to buy each other a gift at Christmas. To surprise her husband, Della sells her long, luxurious hair, so she can purchase a gold chain for his pocket watch. Presenting her gift to him upon his return home after work on Dec. 24, she learns that he sold his watch to purchase beautiful tortoise shell combs for her hair. Each sacrificed each other’s prized possession to make the other happy. Their love for one another, their unselfish generosity was their one true gift to each other.

To say that this past year has been an interesting one, is quite an understatement. We all have suffered frustrations, loss, challenges, and anxiety, yet surprisingly, we all have been blessed with support, rewards, perseverance, and peace, too.

As we plan for our traditional family celebrations, let us all remember the theme of sympathy and compassion in O. Henry’s very human tales of hardworking characters like Della and Jim, who through their difficulties and sacrifices, each as learned the genuine value of love.

He states at the end of his story, “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. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi.”

However, wherever, whatever you celebrate, treasure your time together, be compassionate and kind to one another; be the magi.