Updated: Feb 26
As I reflect on this week, the books we have read, and the artists we have discussed, I notice that we have unintentionally continued the theme of resilience. It seems that the concept of believing in one’s vision and forging on, despite what others say, and despite the setbacks that one encounters, has resonated with both the writers and readers of the Wardrobe.
Often times; however, what makes resilience such a powerful trait are the attributes and actions that it inspires. Last night, I found myself reading “The Gift of the Magi”. I wasn’t looking for it, but I stumbled upon a copy and decided to revisit the short story that I hadn’t read since I was in eighth grade.
“The Gift of the Magi” is a short story written by O’Henry, a pen name for accomplished writer, William Sydney Porter. It was originally published in a New York magazine back in 1905. Oddly enough, Porter wrote the story because he was lacking inspiration. He had run into a bit of a writer’s block and was simply putting pen to paper as an exercise, in hopes that something would come to him. He didn’t particularly love what he had written, but he had a deadline, and he had a wife that he was devoted to, a wife who inspired a short story that would eventually become a timeless tale of the endurance of true love and of the power of never giving up.
“The Gift of the Magi” is a story about a couple, Jim and Della. They have very little money, but they are madly in love. “One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That is all,” is how the story opens. Christmas time has come and we learn that Della wishes to buy her husband a gift, but she only has $1.87.
As the story continues, we find out that Della has gorgeous long locks that she is incredibly proud of, and she has been dreaming of owning this one particular tortoise-shell comb to comb her hair with. Her love for Jim; however, is greater than the love she has for her hair. She desperately wants to get him a gift that is worthy of the man that he is, so she cuts off her hair in exchange for money, earning enough to buy him a chain for the pocket watch he loves so much.
When Jim returns home from work, Della is incredibly excited, but she is quickly saddened by his reaction at her hair. He is left speechless by the loss of her hair, and she worries that he no longer finds her beautiful. She explains to him that she sold her hair to buy him a nice chain for his watch, but that her hair will grow back. Once he is able to express himself fully, we learn that he is not upset about her cutting her hair, but that he is shocked because he has bought her the tortoise-shell comb she had been dreaming of for so long. He didn’t have much money; however, so he sold his pocket watch in order to buy it for his wife. He reminds her that no amount of hair loss, not even a shaved head, could ever make him love her less, and then asks her to open her gift so that she can see why he was left stunned.
In the end, their greatest gift is in their love for each other. Jim reminds Della of the fortune they have in being able to sit down and enjoy a nice dinner together, and so they commence with their Christmas dinner, comforted by their enduring love and sacrifice for one another.
This brings me back to the attributes of resilience. The reason that resilience carries so much weight when it is carried by a story’s protagonist, or by someone you encounter on a personal level, is because there are other traits that are creating that resilient nature. To carry on, to continue fighting the good fight, means that there is a greater force that is driving you to push. Often times, this driving force is love, and love can turn people from humans to superheroes.
Right now, the island of Puerto Rico is experiencing a great deal of heartache amidst the natural disasters that continue to pillage the enchanted land. Last week, I was left feeling scared for them. After all that they had suffered during and after Hurricane Maria, I wondered if they would be able to survive this new catastrophe. This week, I am left feeling incredibly proud and hopeful for the island because its people have come together, united by the love for their beautiful island, and by the faith that together, they can not only survive, but make things better.
Caravans of cars have flooded the highways, filled with people heading to the south zone to help their brothers and sisters in need. Their cars are packed with supplies, from diapers to sunscreen to over-the-counter medicines, to aid those who are suffering. What’s even more amazing is that the people are using their own particular gifts to assist the island. Chefs from San Juan have gone to the south zone to cook one-pot meals in bulk. They can’t do this alone; however, because they need resources to cook with. That is where the local farmers have come in. Farmers have been offering their produce, ranging from onions to tomatoes, for the chefs to cook with. Then you have doctors and nurses who are making their way to the most affected areas to offer medical aid, followed by educators who have traveled to these same areas, offering to teach students whose schools have collapsed, in hopes that they don’t lose too many days of classes and fall behind on their education.
And then there are others, like my incredible cousin Marivette, whom you have heard me mention before. She works in public relations and has a wonderful gift for bringing people together and forming successful events with an initiative in mind. Each weekend, she sends medical personnel, along with a plethora of supplies, to various towns that are struggling to pick themselves back up. With each passing weekend, her mission grows bigger and the amount of lives she has touched grows greater.
I am left speechless by the selflessness of the people and by the fortitude they have shown. Growing up, I always found it hard to explain why my family loved the island so much. Why, despite being far away, a piece of our hearts would always be on the Island of Enchantment. The truth is, while the beaches and the majesty of its nature are stunning, the power and the magic of the island has always been in its people. Puerto Ricans are warm, they are highly intelligent, they are efficient, they are giving, they are creative, and they are the most talented population of people that I have ever come across, and that is saying a lot, because my bar is a high one.
The island’s people are coming together in such profound form, not just because they are fighters, but because their fight is rooted in a deep faith, a faith rooted in love; love for the island, love for the culture, and love for one another.
Art imitates life, and this real-life story of resilience and love brings me back to the fictional short story of “The Gift of the Magi”. It seems that life doesn’t necessarily get easier, we just become better equipped to handle whatever is thrown our way. We will encounter wonderful times and we will encounter hardships. My mom always used to tell me that there is a time for everything. She would reiterate the following Ecclesiastes passage:
“For everything these is a season,
and a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born,
and a time to die;
a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill,
and a time to heal;
a time to break down,
and a time to build up;
a time to weep,
and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn,
and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace,
and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek,
and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend,
and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence,
and a time to speak;
a time to love,
and a time to hate;
a time for war,
and a time for peace.” (3:1-8)
In “The Gift of the Magi”, it was a time for sacrifice, but then it quickly turned into a time to celebrate the love that they had. Right now, in Puerto Rico, it is a time to embrace, to come together, and to prove to the world that while they may be a small island, they are a force that will not falter, and a people that will not fail.
For all of life’s trials and tribulations, there is a book we can turn to, a film we can relate to, or a song we can listen to. There is inspiration all around us, and if we turn that inspiration into positive action, there is nothing that can stop us from picking ourselves back up when times get tough, and loving others when they need it most.