“And The Tree Was Happy.”

I often wonder if in penning those 5 words to end his 1964 best-selling “children’s” book, The Giving Tree (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Giving_Tree), award-winning author Shel Silverstein (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shel_Silverstein) knew what a polarizing effect they would have on his readers – young and old.  Some absolutely love the book and the Tree.  Others are confused and even angered by the Tree’s apparent inability to say “no” in the face of the increasingly hurtful demands of her no-longer-so-little or endearing “friend”.  Clearly, Silverstein exaggerated the point to make the contrast between the boy’s selfish indifference and the tree’s seemingly boundless love and selflessness more stark. Ideally, at least from my perspective, the Tree should have recognized the hurtfulness of the situation before she “gave” the part of herself (her “limbs”) that would have allowed her to continue to give (i.e., bear fruit) in another, hopefully healthier and more “two-sided,” relationship. I don’t think we’re called to give if it continually and irreparably hurts us to do so. To the contrary, I believe that giving is suppose to make us whole and joyful.  For that reason, there have to be boundaries to giving, particularly in the case of love relationships and friendships.  Ultimately, our love and giving must be reciprocated in order for us and the relationship to be healthy. When that is not the case, it’s time to dedicate our giving and our hearts elsewhere. That said, I’d like to think even the Tree had a limit, though she clearly was at the extreme end of the “giving spectrum.” Specifically, to carry the metaphor forward, if asked by the Boy would she allow him to “grind her stump” so he could clear a space to build his new house, I would like to think that even the Tree would have responded with an unequivocal “NO!” – but I must confess I’m not entirely sure.  Why not take 4 minutes and 54 seconds and decide for yourself (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWNWnm3IX2M).

One thought on ““And The Tree Was Happy.”

  1. Just noticed the book is dedicated to his mother. The extreme level of the trees giving which is done humbly, selflessly and lovingly, to the point of complete self-sacrifice is a picture of a parent-child relationship. In the beginning things are as they should be. Mom gives. Child responds with love, interaction, happiness . Boy stays close while seeking independence with girl he bring to tree. But boy never learns to give of himself to others. He fails to realize and appreciate the gifts he had already been given. He only takes. He asks for things the tree can’t really do without and he doesn’t really care about the trees happiness. The tree doesn’t really do him any favors by never saying no. He never has to be creative and resourceful to solve his problems himself. At the end he’s just a lonely old man who has moved back home with his mother.

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