The Book Room
This week we return to the Book Room to check out another beloved children’s book. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is definitely a must read.
In case you’re not familiar with this 1964 classic, it is the story of a tree who loves a little boy very much. In the beginning, this love is reciprocal; the boy’s love for the tree is evident–he spends time with the tree, plays in her branches, gathers her leaves and so on. The tree is happy as long as the boy is happy. As the boy gets older, he is drawn to other things and abandons his old friend. He develops a pattern of coming back to the tree only when he needs something, then disappearing for long stretches of time. Despite this, the tree continues to demonstrate love for the boy by helping him out.
I’ve often said what I love most about children’s books is the presence of a story within the story; a deeper message hidden within its pages. On the surface, this book is about the friendship between a boy and a tree. Each time I read this book to my third-grade students, they get angry at the boy for treating the tree so badly and feel sorry for the tree. They focus on the boy’s selfish behavior and miss the special kind of love the tree is expressing to the boy.
Loving people who love you back is easy–everyone involved is happy and satisfied and all seems well with the world. (most of the time) But what about loving those who don’t love you; who may even use you? The Bible challenges us to love the unlovable; that it means more to go out of your way to show care and concern for those who could care less one way or the other about you. In the story, the tree steadfastly demonstrates love even when it’s unappreciated and taken advantage of.
Spoiler Alert! At the end of this story, the boy comes to his senses and recognizes how much the tree has loved him. however, at this point, there isn’t much he can do but sit awhile and spend time with what’s left of the tree. Don’t wait for it to be too late to extend yourself to that estranged family member, neighbor, old friend or coworker–that ‘undeserving’ person who may, in fact, be desperate for the love you’ve been withholding–you may be surprised at what little it takes.