December 6, 2011
With the holidays in full swing, I cannot help but recall the many seasonal stories that reflect our willingness to help one another and to make gestures of sacrifice and support as demonstrations of our commitment and care.
One of these stories, O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," seems especially appropriate when I think about Western University of Health Sciences, and the mission we have embarked upon here. As you know, "The Gift of the Magi" tells the story of a young married couple who are too poor to purchase the gifts they so desperately want to give one another for Christmas. Both, however, are in possession of gifts of tremendous personal value, to wit:
"There were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy."
You'll recall that Jim and Della quietly went about selling their prize possessions so that they might purchase Christmas gifts specifically intended to highlight the other's prize possession: Jim sacrificing his watch to buy tortoise-shell combs for Della's hair, and Della selling her hair in exchange for a sterling silver chain for Jim's watch.
"The Gift of the Magi" is as fine an example of any of how far one is willing to go to demonstrate care, concern, indeed love for their fellows. We put their needs first, and do everything in our power, including employing the gifts we hold most dear, to make their lives better. This notion of sacrifice, of making the world a better place even at a high personal cost, goes to the very heart of our University, and is written into the DNA of the health professionals working here and the ones we produce to go out into the world.
Jim and Della, as O. Henry's narrator notes, might be considered foolish by some. But theirs is a foolishness born of love, compassion, and care. I daresay we all are fools, who love so completely and well.
"And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days, let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two were the wisest."
When we give of ourselves so fully and completely, without thought of our own wants and needs, we perform the highest possible service to others. We are living the commitment to humanism we have made as members of the health professions, and are making the world richer for it.
As always, I welcome your feedback on this topic and any others as we discuss WesternU's Benchmarks of Value, and our plans. Please e-mail me with your thoughts at email@example.com, and feel free to share this message with your family and friends.
My best to you all, and kindest wishes for a joyous holiday season and the happiest of new years.