The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
1974 New York Times Outstanding Book Award
I recently reread this timeless poignant children’s classic and was struck by how much it reminded me of
Silverstein’s simple picture book is a parable of selfless devotion. The core relationship centers around the tree to a boy. The book follows the course of their relationship over a span of many decades- starting when the boy is young to when he is a very old man. The giving tree is overtly kind and exceedingly generous.
Jimmy Liao’s book- The BLUE STONE has a similar quality of epic generosity- the Blue Stone- endures the folly of man- who constantly inflicts change and refines him/it- yet he remains intact- steadfast and unwavering in emotion and purpose.
I was taken aback by the portrayal of the human condition and affliction of greed which is so prevalent in today’s fickle world. Silverstein does not shy away from presenting this in a clear manner- which is made accessible to even very young children through the simple pencil drawings and uncomplicated text.
“I am too busy to climb trees,” said the boy. “I want a house to keep me warm,” he said. “I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house. Can you give me a house?” “I have no house,” said the tree. “The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house. Then you will be happy.”
Some may view this picture book as an allegory- alluding to the love of Christ or to the bountiful abundance of “Mother Nature” – I am not sure of the author’s intent. However, the unsettling feature of this book, is the accuracy of the portrayal of the opportunistic and greedy aspirations of the boy and correspondingly “man/humankind”. His restless desires are never quite satisfied. I find this book so sad, because it’s so real….this heavy and intense emotion sits very close to my heart and stirs up an unquiet…. Ultimately, I long for a certain kind of peace…personally I’m journeying with that and have found a lot more stillness and calm then I used to have- all thanks to making a brave step to attend The Alpha Course a 10 week primer on the Christian Faith.
For me, this echoes the incredible- eternal promises of God. Never changing, never demanding, always the same.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.