The Giving Tree

19 08 2014

In the mid-70’s my college friend gave me Shel Silverstein’s picture book, The Giving Tree.  In it, a growing boy and a flourishing tree are friends.  The young boy rests in its shade and swings from its limbs.  He declares his adolescent love by carving a heart on the tree’s trunk.  The boy leaves home and returns; the tree gives its apples and the young man sells them.  The boy, now a man, uses the tree’s branches to build his house, and its trunk to make a boat to sail away.  When the “boy” finally returns, old and bent, the tree gives her stump to him—and he rests.

One of the story’s themes, I believe, is the idea that each of us is uniquely equipped to give, and what/how we give comes directly from that uniqueness—who we are and what we possess.  Furthermore, I believe that happens best when we are simply being ourselves–who we were created to be; AND in every life stage, age and ability.

The tree in its younger age offered shade, stability, rest and recreation.  It could not do that as a sapling.  In its middle age, it gave its fruit and its wood was used to build a home.  In its late age, even, it welcomed its old friend to rest awhile.

It may be simple, but it is not always easy.  Sometimes, I feel I am just beginning to FIND myself and discover my gifts in my seventh decade of life. The giving tree is simply nature’s example of just being itself, and in doing so, giving.  Freely. Whether I am aware of it, when I honor my sense of purpose and rightness on a daily basis,
I am giving.  I am a gift.

In my involvement with Senior Connections, matching weekly visitors with older adults, I think of young students bringing to their elder friend their energy and tech savvy, compassion and respect.  The elders offer welcome, wisdom, hospitality and acceptance.  Those who possess cars, transportation.  Those who are able-bodied, a strong arm to lean on. And babies, well they often bring the most joy just being babies!  Not a one can replace the other, or contribute what the other does.

Even in harsh realities of life, one’s unique contribution is crucial.  A helpless baby receives and grows because his mother nurtures her.  A troubled teen can be set on the right path through her mentor.  First responders endanger themselves to save others’ lives.  A gift of homemade chicken soup makes a new neighbor feel welcome.  Speaking of the nurture of food…

My mother-in-law lost her husband when the youngest of her 9 children was 3 years old.  She had no time or resources for “giving” something “special.”  She was just Marge.  One thing she always did, HAD to do–she cooked.  She made that food budget stretch, and every one of those children have grown into also-giving, uniquely-being adults.  She in later years came to our house often.  She would take off her coat, pull out the bowls and get her bread dough rising.  Then she started on two meatloaves and ended the afternoon with two apple pies.  I protested, “Ma, you don’t have to do this!” She said,  “This is what I do!  I enjoy it.  I don’t go off to work every day and the kids are grown. Relax, and let me enjoy this, honey!”  And, so I did!  Along with her son and our kids.  After she died, the family produced a cookbook of all her recipes titled, “I Did It Ma’s Way.”  She is still giving.

“Bloom where you are planted” is an expression that captures this idea that as we are created, so is our purpose. All the flower has to do, all it CAN do is grow and live as nature made it.  It’s win-win!  I call this “God’s economy,” where simply in the giving-being there is blessing.  Simply in the receiving-being there is blessing.  The Message, a translation of the Bible in everyday language says, “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good”.  Our purpose, ready-made.

So do remember, please, that amid the sublime and the ridiculous, the mundane and the significant moments of your life, in every stage and at any age—that YOU, dear reader, in your unique, present, flawed perhaps, but one and only you, ARE a gift.
efb-(originally 12-19-11)