Of Giving and Receiving

Presents endear absence, or so we are told. Sounds strange until we see it in writing or print. It is presents and not presence. People do send presents when they themselves can’t be present. Sometimes such people are valued only for their presents and not for their presence. So their absence is kind of appreciated! And if they have sent a present in lieu of their absence, it is all the more welcome.

Special days like festivals are a great time for presents. Even before Christmaswas commercialized, children used to wait for the white bearded man in red colour dress who rode a sledge drawn by reindeer and dropped down into the drawing room through the chimney to leave gifts for the young ones. It was always the dear old Santa who got thanked for what the parents had done. To borrow a phrase from Robert Owen it is ‘an eternal reciprocation’. When these children grow up they do it to and for their children.

O’ Henry wrote a beautiful story about Christmas gifts and immortalized a couple called Della and Jim in The Gift of the Magi. You will have tears in your eyes by the time you finish reading it. About Della and Jim who ‘unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house’, the author says “Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest…They are the Magi.”

Magi (singular Magus) were three wise men who went to see Baby Jesus in the manger. In those days the scholars who could do ‘things that others couldn’t’ were called magi. Today some of them are called scientists and the others are called magicians (magi – magic – magicians). John Hwandike wrote a beautiful novel called ‘The Fourth Magus Who Went to Jerusalem’ about a fourth magus who couldn’t make it to Jerusalem as he had to spend his money and his gifts for the poor on his way to Jerusalem to see the baby. Wasn’t he the one who really saw Him?

O’ Henry suggests that it would have been these wise men who invented the art of giving presents. Present is an interesting word. It comes from the Sanskrit word sat meaning truth. In Old English it became ‘sooth’. Adding pre- (before) to a similar Swedish word,sand (truth), we got presand which became present (that which is truly before you).

It is said that we must try to enjoy every second of our present time as if it is a gift. It is a present, a gift! When we say gifted childrenor a gifted musician, we mean that they got their talents as a gift from God; again presents.

He Himself may be hidden but His gifts aren’t. In fact, the whole world is His gift for us. His presence and His presents are equally dear to us. And the truth of the matter is that there is no him and us, only Him or Us. So, when you give, you are actually receiving.

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