The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. ~James Bryce
My mother and I have a saying. When someone seems to have an odd viewpoint, or they seem to be shallow in some way, we excuse their lack of depth by saying, “They haven’t read the same books we have.” I’m sure many people could say the same thing about us in several areas.
The wonderful thing about books is that you have the whole of a person inside of them. They contain another person’s thoughts, feelings, wisdom, faults, frustrations, fears and everything else that makes a person uniquely them.
Each Monday, I am going to write about a book that has designed the tapestry of my life. I thought I’d start with the first book I remember reading: The Giving Tree. My parents, being the Christian hippies that they were, helped with a Christian night club on Friday and Saturday nights. It was called Night Light. Night Light had concerts regularly, but the most common form of entertainment was a group of talented Saturday Night Live style performers. Before I even read the book The Giving Tree, I saw these talented actors perform it.
One of the things I like most about this book, and others like it, is that the story, written by Shel Silverstein, goes beyond any age group. I love it when a children’s picture book, becomes a universal picture book. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and You Are Special by Max Lucado are two other books that supersede any age group.
I remember my first response to this story was to feel sorry for the tree, and to hate the boy for taking advantage of the tree. As I grew older, I admired the tree. I wanted to be able to selflessly give like the tree. Now that I am older still, I think the question of motive comes into play. The motive of the tree seems to be to genuinely want to help others be better. After all, my first intention to be a selfless giver was really for myself…so that I could be perceived a martyr, or a very nice person. This book helped me to see that it is truly better to give than to receive, and to recognize the value of a life poured out and emptied in order to make the dream of another come true. Another value that I’ve found in this book, is how empty it is to live for the purpose of accumulating things. The boy does this, and is never fulfilled. The tree gives her all, and she is happy.
Even though it was written in 1964, this book continues to change hearts and lives to this day. It is truly a classic.