One of the many perks of parenthood has been the introduction, or re-introduction, of many beautiful children’s stories. As adults we don’t often get to visit the stories of our childhoods, which is unfortunate because there is so much to learn from them through our grown-up eyes. So far, there have been three books that have stood out to me, one of those books is The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. I remember reading this book as a little girl and it always made me cry…I felt so much sadness for the tree; she seemed so lonely. However, reading this book as an adult, I have such a different understanding and newfound respect for the tree. This is really a story about learning to tolerate another’s limited capacity for love. In the story the tree gives various parts of herself to a young boy, who then becomes a man, and as you watch this man take from her, seemingly without giving anything back, the tree continues to accept this man, as he is, with all of his, seemingly selfish, flaws.
As I read this book, I realized how much there is to learn from this tree. One of the greatest challenges I watch people face, myself included, is tolerating how little control we have over another person’s behaviors. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to fix, or change, someone; seeing so clearly that all they have to do is change this one little thing and everything could be so much better; or falling into the trap of basing your own value, or self-worth, on this other person’s behaviors. It’s so easy to feel sadness for the tree when you are looking at it through the lens that she is deprived because the boy cannot reciprocate her giving. However, that does not appear to be the tree’s actual experience, perhaps just a projection from my own place of deprivation. The tree places no demands on this boy, she asks for nothing in return, and she continues to just be, as this boy moves in and out of her life. I’m sure there are many other interpretations of this incredible story but I imagine how much peace we could experience if we took just a little bit of The Giving Tree’s poised offerings.