People have strong reactions to “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. The German translation of the title is “The Tree that Went Down in Style.” I know because I gave it to someone as a present this year.
Most people find “The Giving Tree” to be sad. It is a story of inappropriate boundaries, given that it verges on something obsessive: love that doesn’t know when to just say “no.” Indeed, a friend from Dallas read the book to her children this week and her precious little Sarah cried and said, “…she gave him everything and he gave her nothing. It’s so sad.”
I can see that perspective.
It could be sad to be the tree, but I would maintain it is not sad to choose to be the tree. Lonely? Yes. Frustrating? Heck, even the strongest of trees has to ask, “Seriously, you want that, too?” from time to time. Disappointing? Sometimes.
However, the tree is majestic, life-giving, and life-renewing. The tree provides shade, comfort, nourishment, and shelter. The tree has a strength within it that the boy and the world need. And the tree has something far more important: unconditional love.
There is a famous poem attributed to Mother Teresa (Kent Keith really wrote it). Sometimes it is called “Anyway” and sometimes it is referred to as “Do it Anyway.” The basic idea is for me to acknowledge people will hurt me, attack me, use my good deeds against me, etc. but I must do the good deeds anyway. “You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; it was never between you and them anyway,” Mr. Keith tells us.
I’d choose to be the tree every time. There is strength in the decision to confront the boy’s selfishness with giving. There is strength in our daily decisions to give to those people who are taking from us with seeming disregard.
Shel picked the perfect pair when he paired the little boy with a tree. There is an unyielding flow of power in trees given to them by Mother Nature. Trees withstand harsh conditions, brutal attacks, and even regenerate from time to time. I find it “awe”some how resilient trees can be.
Perhaps it comes from their only purpose: giving.