Because it is February and the focus of the month is storytelling, and it is February and it is Valentine season, I am going to tell you a love story.
Now I am not going to tell you the kind of love story where boy meets girl (or boy meets boy or girl meets girl), they sweep each other off their feet, and an amazing soundtrack runs in the background amidst their witty banter. A great love story is not just about a beginning. Anyone can have a great beginning. A great love story is more than that.
I am also not going to tell you a story where everything is fine until some misunderstanding happens, and all of this is resolved when one person chases the other person at the airport, somehow miraculously bypassing security, to deliver a public declaration of love. No, I am not telling that story today either. A great love story declares its love in the quietest and most private way.
I am going to tell you a great love story about this young couple named Jim and Della. They are very young, very poor, and very much in love. The story is set during Christmas Eve, with Della counting her money in coins. A dollar and eighty-seven cents was all that she had to buy her beloved Jim a present. Distraught, she left the house to look for something her one dollar and eighty-seven cents could buy. She came upon a shop selling hair accessories. She asked the shopkeeper if they will buy her hair as she showed her long beautiful locks. Twenty dollars was what the shopkeeper offered, and with that a transaction was done. Her hair shorter and twenty dollars richer, Della proceeded to look for a present for Jim. She found a store selling watches, and saw a metal chain that looked perfect for the pocket watch that Jim has. She purchased it and went home with mixed feelings, eager that she had found the perfect gift, anxious that he may not like her new haircut. When Jim came home and saw her, he had an expression on his face that Della couldn't quite understand. "What's wrong?" she asked, worried that he found her less attractive now without her long locks. "It's not that" Jim explained, "open my gift and you will understand". Della opened her present and saw that it was a set of combs, accessories to adorn the beautiful hair that she had just cut. "These are beautiful", she exclaimed, "don't worry, my hair will grow back soon enough. Now open my present for you." Jim unwrapped his present, saw the metal chain for his watch, and had that same expression on his face. It turned out that he had sold his pocket watch so he could buy the accessories to adorn Della's hair which she had cut. This story was published 110 years ago. The story is called The Gift of the Magi and it was written by O. Henry. This is a great love story not because of what is shown to the outside world, not because of how rich their material possessions are, not because of how they got what they wanted. It is a great love story because at the end of it, they had nothing to show except the spirit of love.
Everyone wants a great love story. Some of us may deny it or even be unconscious of it or believe we cannot have it or deserve to have it. Just the same, everyone wants a great love story. But a great love story does not begin when one person meets another person. A great love story begins with love of oneself. To accept oneself unconditionally, to see one's inherent worthiness, to understand that one is complete by himself or herself is when a great love story begins. To be confident beyond our metaphorical one dollar and eighty-seven cents and unattached to our metaphorical hair or pocket watch is how a great love story is set up to happen. In a great love story, there is no savior and saved, no damsels in distress, no knights in shining armor. A great love story is one where both are heroes or heroines in his or her own right. A great love story is not about one completing the other; it is a conscious sharing of two complete lives.
A complete love does not look to an other, thinking this other will complete what is lacking in oneself. It does not clutch on to a show of what looks good outside. It does not think it can change the self or the other. A great love story is great not in its perfection but in its giving of the most vulnerable part of who we are. If we want great love, we do not keep who we are hidden. If we want great love, we do not withhold the giving of what is great in us.
Great love is not only romantic. Great love in its full glory of giving and not expecting anything in return can come in the form of loving a parent and loving a sibling and loving a child, loving the family and the community and the world, loving the known and loving the unknown, loving those who are like us and loving those who are not like us, loving humans and animals and nature, loving consciousness, loving God, loving the Divine.
Everyone wants a great love story, and that story already exists within us. We may at times feel we only have one dollar and eighty-seven cents worth in the currency of how we see ourselves, and that is when we have to rewrite the story of our lives. If we want great love, we find that love within, as it is, without condition, without attachments, without a future time-stamp. If we want a great love story, we have to be willing to become our own one great love.