At first I was a little confused when my wife gave me a children’s book called “The Giving Tree” to read. Was she trying to tell me something, I thought.
Turns out it was a book she first read and fell in love with back in a college literature class. “The Giving Tree,” written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein, was released in 1964 and is still popular today – even though its meaning continues to be the subject of debate.
Some readers felt the story was too depressing, supporting codependency and selfish behavior. One blogger even said he’d read the book over 60 times and still wasn’t sure what the author was trying to say. That’s a little extreme for a book of simple line drawings and a sprinkling of text here and there.
But after reading it myself a few times, I can somewhat understand the confusion. I wasn’t at all depressed, but rather touched by the story and how it was written. However, I did find it hard at first to pull together a coherent theme after reading the last page.
But a discussion with my bride helped to clear things up a bit. As with so many things in my life, I was over-complicating the meaning by thinking too much – maybe other readers had the same trouble. Simply put, it’s a story about how often we take the people who love us the most for granted. Who couldn’t learn a few things about that?
Stories such as “The Giving Tree,” and countless other tales, are written for the younger generation during their development, in the hopes of educating and inspiring them as they graduate to adults. But too often, little seems to be retained and quiet ironically these so-called children’s books become not only applicable for those under the age of 10 but those over the age of 30.
At first I thought it strange for a grown man of 36 to be reading a book written for children. But in the end I learned an invaluable lesson of what should be most important to us in life – the people who love us. I’m starting to understand that we’re truly never done learning, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply afraid of what they might discover.