Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.
This book has been in my life for literally decades. Always the context has been that this is what unconditional love and self-sacrifice look like.
I’m not sure exactly what triggered the realization that it’s a far cry from a healthy relationship, but a quick Google search confirms I’m not the only one who thinks so.
A quick synopsis: Tree and boy love each other. Tree gives herself (literally) throughout his life until she has nothing left. Boy takes from tree with nary a thank you much less a thought to tree’s well-being.
See what I mean? Unhealthy at the very least. Abusive is closer to what I’m thinking. We’ve been fed this distorted view of love all this time.
Yes, Love is unconditional and self-sacrificing, but it’s about far more than making someone happy, especially at the expense of your own health and well-being. It’s helping someone become all they are capable of being, knowing that when they are learning and growing in that way, happiness is a natural byproduct.
And so I wondered…if The Giving Tree portrayed a healthier and more complete picture of unconditional love and self-sacrifice, what would the story be?
SUMMARY TO THIS POINT: Boy and Tree love each other, but Boy wants more out of life. Tree offers her apples to sell. Boy does so, returning years later.
“Hello, Boy! I am so happy to see you! Did selling my apples bring you money and happiness?”
The boy stood, hands in his pockets.
“It did for a while,” he admitted. “I sold the apples and bought things, and I was happy for a while, but it hasn’t lasted. I want more.”
The tree wanted the boy to be happy. She knew that with his kindness, courage, perseverance, and love for nature, he could do great things, which would make him happier than more things.
“Happiness comes from being who you are. When you are the most you, you are the most happy. When in your life have you been the happiest?” asked the tree.
The boy thought for a long time. “Here with you, when I would climb and play and eat your apples.”
The tree and the boy thought and thought until the boy’s legs and back became tired. He lay down in her shade, and fell asleep.
He had a dream. He hadn’t had a good dreamy dream in a very long time. When he woke, he knew what he needed to do.
The boy and the tree made a plan. The boy planted some of the tree’s seeds nearby. He fed and watered them until they became saplings.
Then the boy went to the schools and talked about his friendship with the tree. He invited some of the children to help take care of the saplings. The children smiled and caught his dream. It became theirs as well.
The boy and the children took care of the saplings, and finally they were large and strong. The children climbed their trunks and swung from their branches and ate apples and slept in their shade.
And the tree was happy. The boy was happy. The trees and the children were happy.
Love adds instead of subtracts, multiplies rather than divides. It builds. It shares. It wants what is best for all those it loves.
And this truer definition of love means trees don’t become stumps and boys don’t grow into lonely old men.
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Creating Systems for Courageous Kindness
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