What is love? “When Jim comes home, he looks at Della with a strange expression. Della then admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present — an assortment of expensive hair accessories (referred to as “The Combs”), useless now that her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is.” (Wikipedia, The Gift of the Magi) Whether these two people are siblings, friends, or lovers, there is something to this story that persuades us of the presence of a profound love. This is the kind of love we all should strive for. Why? Because we long for this kind of love, to experience it as our own. What strikes at our hearts about this story is seeing the extent one person went for the other to show the reality of their love. It reminds me of a quote by Pope Benedict XVI concerning the human person, “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” What love is more romantic, honorable and of excellence than the kind where two people go beyond self-comfort in order to fight for each other’s good?
Aristotle even agrees that there are two other friendships young people take part in that sadly only brush at the concept of real love and tend to focus inward: that of utility and pleasure (comfort). A friendship of virtue however, is portrayed in “The Gift of the Magi,” as Jim gives away the very thing he adores for a person he loves more. Della, also unaware of Jim’s actions, cuts away her best feature of beautiful flowing hair for a watch chain, simply because it means a lot to him. She desires his happiness more than hers, and he desires her happiness more than his.
The best part of all, the fundamental characteristic of love is free will. They chose to do it, it was not forced upon either of them. In love, free will is essential. As Pope John Paul II exclaims, “Freedom exists for the sake of love.” Love is stronger when I know the other person and choose to commit my freedom to him totally, done in reciprocity. I am my own master. This hair is mine, this money is mine, and time is mine. Yet, in love I choose to give everything to the other, that of betrothed love. Jim chose Della over his possessions, and Della chose Jim over her most admired physical quality.
So with our gift of free will, let us observe our relationships and question how deeply they are rooted in authentic love. Every day is an opportunity to learn more about the other, commit yourself more and give of yourself more to the other.
“Love should be seen as something which in a sense never is but is always only becoming, and what it becomes depends upon the contribution of both persons and the depth of their commitment.” Pope John Paul II
Casey Dail can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org