Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Several days ago I read for the first time The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  It's a short children's book, but it raises serious issues.  

The story is about a boy and a tree.  As the boy grows up, the boy spends less time with the tree.  When the boy does come back to the tree, the boy asks for money.  When the boy is an adult, he asks for a house.  As an old man, he asks for a boat.  The tree sacrifices itself to give these things to the boy. 

Is this a story of unconditional love, like that of a mother for her child?  Is it a story of an unfair relationship where the boy takes advantage of the generous tree?  Is it a story of redemption when the boy returns to the tree as a very old man and the boy just wants to sit on the tree? 

My interpretation of the story is that helping another person can mean very difficult sacrifices on the helper's part. (Some might argue that assistance that doesn't involve real sacrifice isn't really assistance.)  I think one can justifiably say that the boy could be more self-sufficient and that the tree could say no to the boy's demands to encourage the boy to be more independent.  But what if the boy can't fend for himself? 

And if we choose to help such a person, a person who cannot fully take care of himself for whatever reason, then we'll have to make real and difficult sacrifices (of our time, resources, energy) to help.  And such charity and love are special things. 

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