'Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy' so begins the story of “The Giving Tree” - a beautifully illustrated and deeply meaningful children's book by the ingenious Shel Silverstein. The book may have been published fifty years ago, but it remains as heart wrenchingly beautiful and persuasive today as it was when first published in 1964 by Harper & Row.
It is a story about a tree and a little boy. Every day the boy would come to the tree and climb on it, swing from its branches, eat its apples, even make a crown out of its leaves, proclaiming himself to be the King of the forest. The little boy loves the tree and the tree is happy. But as time goes by and the boy grows older, he begins to want more from the tree, and the tree unflinchingly continues to give and give - first its apples, then its branches and then its bark itself, remaining just a stump itself.
It is a story that has enticed young and old alike across time, age and distance. So here are 5 lessons that The Giving Tree continues to impart its readers:
The bond between the tree and the boy is like that of a parent and a child. The boy at first loves the tree dearly and the tree reciprocates the boy's love. But as time goes by, the boy's priorities change, he visits less and less often. Yet, the tree never wavers from its devotion to the boy. The tree is a constant in the boy's life. A safe heaven where the boy can take refuge and be assured of love and acceptance at all times.
We as parents too have to aspire to be that one constant in our children's lives. There safe heaven, where no matter what they do or don't, how good, bad or naughty their behaviour is - they are assured of patience, compassion and acceptance.
Respect for nature
It is amidst nature where we feel most alive. So it is with the boy, so it is with all of us. The most memorable, carefree moments of the boy's childhood have been spent with the tree. And isn't that true about a lot of us too. But sadly, modern life has turned our kids into screen-lovers instead of nature lovers. Break the vicious cycle. Actively foster a deep connection with nature in your kids.
Turn off that screen and take your kid outside for a walk, or plan a trekking holiday or have a picnic at the park. Or simply give your kid a camera and let her capture pictures of a sunset, or trees, or birds, or bees, or even a centipede that catches her eye. Awaken a true nature lover in your kid and see them flourish and become more confident individuals.
As a Danish author H. C. Anderson, best remembered for his fairy tales once said, 'Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.'
It is the central idea of the book. The tree gives and gives to the boy, selflessly, and in a self effacing manner to enable the boy in different ways at different stages of his life. Isn't to empower another through an act of generosity the highest virtue? It is our duty as parents to inculcate this virtue in our kids, to kindle deep compassion in their heart that can spring forth in acts of generosity.
Why not plan a generosity party! Invite your kid's friends over for story time and snacks and encourage each little guest to bring a copy of their favourite story book along. At the party, request each kid to draw something or highlight their favourite part of the story or write their favourite quote. Let the children know, that after the party each of their storybooks will be donated to a charity, school or the local library. Sharing a piece of themselves through their favourite story will be an experience your young guests will cherish for life. In a simple, yet thoughtful way they will have performed an act of generosity that will be both, personal and timeless. And that is the purpose of this activity, to show kids just how simple it can be to give of ourselves from time to time.
Albert Einstein once said, 'There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Let us teach our kids to be grateful for the myriad miracles that occur in their lives every day. Gratitude is definitely a powerful attitude that can transform a chore into a privilege and a duty into an opportunity.
By portraying the boy ungrateful, Silverstein sheds light on the importance of gratitude. It is important as parents that we nudge our kids towards cultivating the habit of being grateful for every good thing that happens to them. Because none is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude.
Joy of being together
Together we can scale mountains, navigate oceans, unite the seas and the sky!
Together we can create a riot of laughter, smile from ear to ear, feel happy!
Together we can do more, feel more, live more!
The tree and the boy are happy simply to be together. No modern world luxury can match the camaraderie that the two share. The greatest lesson The Giving Tree teaches us is to be willing to sit next to those who need support, even in silence.
So go ahead, buy, borrow or steal a copy of The Giving Tree today and read it to your child. Explain her the nuances of the story. You will be amazed at her interpretation of the story!
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