Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, October 19, 2007

Enough is Enough

for my birthday
another trip
around the sun

-a Haiku by Jim Kacian

I think this is an elegant and fragile way of defining 'enough.' How many of us could honestly be that grateful for something so simple? We are rarely satisfied for very long—that, I am afraid, is the modern consumer inside all of us—racing ahead, imagining the next thing we can get. Sometimes it is not even for ourselves that we spend so lavishly. That does not make it more justifiable, however. We just do not know when to stop.
We are so caught up in celebrating birthdays and other occasions that we in fact go into debt for such things.
It is not an inconsequential point to add that most gifts do not see out the year; they end up being neglected or discarded to the rubbish pile.
There is a story by the writer O. Henry that I find, frankly, bemusing. Entitled 'The Gift of the Magi,' it is set at Christmas time and concerns a very nice young couple who are dreadfully poor. So impoverished, in fact, that food is scarce and the story gives the impression they are concerned they might not last very much longer if things continue that way.
I find the story hard to take, myself.
He decides to sell the last precious thing that he owns, as does she, and they do this independently of each other.
With the fine money they make, do they buy food, or pay bills, or save the money in a box under the bed—or make their lives easier in any way?
They do none of those things.
They buy each other a present.
Perhaps I inadvertently brushed past the real moral of the story: that they are in love and want to share kindness and make the other happy. I am certain that is a lovely idea, all well and good and heart warming, but for that Christmas, just that one hungry, difficult and troublesome occasion, I wonder why he could not simply have said,

“Sorry, Della, there just isn't any money. Next year will be better, I promise.”

Would she not have understood that proclamation? Would she not have replied, 'Not to worry, Jim. I know how hard you work. We don't need to starve to prove our love for each other.'
Am I a heartless, unromantic cheapskate? It is just that I tend to think simple is better, that priorities need to be set firmly, and that one does not at all need to go overboard with spending to prove affection for somebody. And if you do not have the money to spare, well, then, you just do not.
Perhaps a simple, homemade card at any time, not only on special occasions, would be enough. Or a telephone call, or a friendly visit; something affordable yet effective that does not run the risk of being forgotten by next week.

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