Time is a precious commodity. There never seems to be enough of it. Too many things seem to devour it. Working, household chores, children, parents, pets, all demand our attention. Holidays only make our time more limited. It seems as if there is never “time left over” for the “we” part of marriage. No time left for the “me” in a relationship. How can we give the gift of time? Like anything else we do, we have to work at it. It takes planning.

In O. Henry’s famous short story, “The Gift of the Magi,” the husband and wife make sacrifices to buy each other what each desire for Christmas. The husband sells his beloved watch to buy expensive combs for his wife to wear in her long beautiful hair. The wife sells her hair to a barber so she can buy a watch fob and chain on which her husband can hang his watch. The story is about loving someone so much that you would part with something that is precious to you so they can have a special gift. It is a beautiful fictional story.

“The Gift of the Magi” illustrates an important lesson about gift-giving between spouses.

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Some of the most precious gifts we receive come from someone’s sacrifice. But unlike the actions of the young couple in the story, the sacrifice need not be so dramatic. One of the most wonderful gifts we can give our spouses is time, time to spend together and taking on a chore so that our spouses can have time for themselves.

 One couple I know makes a point to take a short walk twice a week during the holiday rush.  They hold hands like they did when they were dating. Talking about anything important is not on the agenda. They just look around while walking and enjoy being together. They create a special hour just for each other thus giving themselves the gift of time.

Sometimes just sitting together can be enough. On a weekend morning taking an early morning cup of coffee into a room where you won’t be disturbed and listening to soft music together is a small thing to do. It can simply be for the duration of the time it takes to drink one cup but it is time well spent. It’s a time for you to unwind from your busy week and just comment on simple things like the weather, baseball, and movies. No serious talk is allowed. This is quiet time.

One of the nicest gifts of time I saw was something my best friend’s fiancé did for her. She always makes the holidays a magical time for everyone but it takes a toll on her in tiredness. While we all enjoy what she has done there are moments when she is too tired to share in the fun.

It was Christmas Eve and she had prepared everything for dinner. She was busy setting the table, an elegant affair that took much time. Over her protests her fiancé grabbed her hand, got her coat, and took her outside to view the delicate snowfall.

“Dinner is in the oven, I’ll help you with the table, but first I want you take a break. This is my gift to you. Relax.”

He stayed with her for a few minutes then went inside to finish setting the table. He had given her the gift of time.

Holiday gifts need not be expensive and wrapped in fancy paper. They need only be priceless gifts from the heart wrapped in love. This is the real-life gift of the Magi. Gifts need not be expensive; they need only come with love.

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© 2011 Kristen Houghton all rights reserved

To all my readers and to everyone here at The Alternative Press:

May your holidays be blessed with happiness and hope.
May humor be a gift you give to yourself, and may you give the priceless gifts of kindness and compassion to all.
Finally, may the New Year bring you a chance for new beginnings and a renewed belief in yourself that anything is possible.

Love, Peace, Happiness ~ Kristen Houghton

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