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Constance Alexander: ‘Tis the season to celebrate simple gifts, the ones we cherish most

From the North Pole to South, coast to coast, and border to border, 2017 has had its ups and downs. Violence blazes in far reaches of the globe, and millions can be vaporized with the flick of a finger. Voices worldwide are raised in dissent and disharmony. Hardly a joyful noise, the result is cacophony.

Closer to home, debates about a library addition, a payroll tax, and the state pension fiasco have crescendoed, adding dissonant notes to community conversations. Even the most imperturbable among us might grumble “Bah! Humbug!” about one thing or another.

At the same time, we are in the thick of Christmas preparations. They started earlier than ever this year. No sooner had Halloween pumpkins gone soft, Christmas bells were ringing. Trees were decorated before Thanksgiving turkey bones were pitched into the soup pot. Stores hummed with carols before there was time to sing the last verse of “Come Ye Thankful People.”

With the season of glitter and gift-giving upon us, we could use a reminder that it is possible to set differences aside and celebrate the generous spirit of our community.

On Monday, December 18, at 6:30 pm, a community reading of the Christmas classic, “The Gift of the Magi” will happen in the meeting room of the Calloway County Public Library. A heavenly host of local folks has agreed to read portions of the timeless O. Henry story aloud. At the end, the audience will be invited to join in.

The local luminaria of readers includes the likes of the mayor and the county judge, along with other generous volunteers.  Teachers, ministers, executives, health care professionals, teenagers, and retirees are pitching in. So far, at least sixteen have agreed to lend their voices to this collaborative project, and the list is still growing.

For those who have forgotten, “The Gift of the Magi” features a sweet young couple, Della and James Dillingham Young, who are barely scraping together enough money to pay rent, buy food, and just keep going. In anticipation of Christmas, Della has managed — one penny at a time — to put aside one dollar and eighty-seven cents, in hopes of purchasing a present for her hardworking husband.
In spite of her best efforts, everything cost more than Della expected. Weeping bitterly and gazing into the narrow looking glass in their $8 a week furnished room, she suddenly realized that her hair, described as a lush brown waterfall once loosed from the pins, could be sold to raise cash.

Her flowing locks brought a fortune, twenty whole dollars. Flush with cash, Della went from one shop to another that Christmas Eve, until she found the perfect gift for Jim. When she returned home with a mere eighty-seven cents to her name, she had some misgivings, fearing Jim’s reaction to her shorn locks.

Jim arrived for dinner looking thin, tired, and cold. Della noticed that he needed a new coat and a decent pair of gloves. In spite of the necessities he lacked, he brought a lavish present for Della, something she had longed for.

By now, you may have recalled the rest of the story, how the two sold something precious to please the other. In the end, they learned that simple gifts are the ones we cherish most.  

The community reading of “The Gift of the Magi” is at 6:30 p.m., Monday, December 18. The public is invited and refreshments will be served. For more information about holiday events at the Calloway County Public Library, 710 Main Street in Murray, Ky., contact Sandy Linn at 270-753-2288. The website is www.callowaycountylibrary.org.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray, Ky. She can be reached at calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

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