Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Love is Give and Take

"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear."
-Winnie the Pooh
One of my favorite children's stories is The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. In my mind, it has all of the elements of meaningful literature for the wee ones: quirky illustrations, heart warming theme, and a timeless underlying lesson for the adults who read them. It begins:

"There once was a tree.
And She loved a little boy.
And Every day the boy would come,
and make her leaves into crowns
and play king of the forest."

As time passes the boy comes to visit the tree, and looking for happiness, he takes her apples and sells them in the city. Before long the boy returns, now grown, thinking that Once he has a home, everything will fall into place. The tree offers up her branches so that he can build a home.The tree awaits his return and time passes , and the boy thinks If only I had a boat, all would be well. The tree generously offers up her trunk so that he can build a boat, sail off and be happy. The tree is now alone for a long long time, and one day the boy, now an old man returns, and the tree laments that she has nothing more to give to provide him with happiness. She offers her stump now to him, so that he may sit and rest and they are both happy.

So often it seems, we await that next acquisition or opportunity, certain that what we seek will be found there. Only to find that we are back where we started, and more often than not, what we are really seeking is right under our nose, Its crisp sweetness hanging on the branch under which we have been lying for years.

The Tree knows that apples and houses and boats will not bring the boy contentment, for she has felt his contentment as he climbed her trunk and swung from her branches and gathered her leaves. But she wants the boy to be happy, and so she gives up her "Tree-ness" for his temporary happiness. She knows that boys will be boys, and that boys must learn and grow. And although she no longer has branches, or apples or a trunk, the tree is still a tree. And even though the boy has acquired money and a house, and a boat, the boy is still a boy. Despite what they have lost or gained, they haven't really changed at all. The quality that remains is what they share As they both near the end of their usefulness. They share contentment, as the tree, with the only thing it it ever really had to offer, supplies a place for the boy, to
'sit and rest'
and in the end
"The Love we take is equal to the Love we make..."

“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give,
but how much love we put in the giving."
Mother Teresa

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