Many years ago, I spent several months backpacking around Europe. Through a friend of a friend, I made contact with two young women attending school in Dublin, and I stayed with them for about 2 weeks in their cramped 3rd story, unheated walk-up.
One of these girls was Margaret Fox, from Belfast. She was a rather cynical and hard-to-humor girl. The best way I can describe her is that most of the time she acted like a cranky old lady even though she was only twenty-three. I think she'd had a pretty hard life, even at that young age. But sometimes Margaret would let her hair down and let a vulnerable, child-like side peek through, like when she would compliment me on the ring I wore. The ring was a garnet in a rather ornate gold setting and I'd worn it 24/7 for years -- one of those pieces of jewelry that eventually just becomes part of you. The most effusive I ever saw her was when she was marveling at how beautiful she thought that ring was.
The morning I left Dublin for wherever my next stop was going to be, Margaret and her roommate were still sleeping. I quietly got my things together without waking them (having said our farewells the night before), removed my ring, put it on the bed stand next to Margaret’s pillow, and left that apartment with a heart so light I could have floated on air. It was absolutely my pleasure and my joy to give her that ring.
I never saw Margaret again and have no idea what became of her. But every once in a while I think of her and imagine what it might have been like to see her wake up that morning, stretch, force herself to get out of bed in that freezing cold room -- and see the ring sitting there. It brings a smile to my face, and if cells can smile, every cell of my body smiles, too. This, I think, must be what the ''joy of giving'' is all about.
These moments may not come around too often in a lifetime, but they are to be cherished. Would that all of us -- children and adults, alike -- experience the pure and utter delight of giving from our hearts this season, for this surely is one of the places where joy is born.