This is a guest post by Elizabeth Howard. Read more about her at the end.
Remember that book — The Giving Tree — we all read it, or listened to it when we were kids? About the boy who kept taking and taking from the beautiful, old tree until all that was left was a stump?
Why are we supposed to love this book? Other than it teaches us to FEEL sad, which I suppose isn’t such an awful life lesson to learn.
A Giving Lesson
Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal more about giving, and what it takes to carve out (pardon the pun) time in each day to do something thoughtful for someone else.
I’ve been thinking about this because in the last two years, I’ve been a living, breathing sponge.
We took in four kids at our house and we needed a LOT of help. We asked and asked for it (that’s what you are supposed to do, right?) and people helped. Of course.
This is not to say I haven’t been putting out. I am a mother after all. I put out all day long, all the time, for the beautiful little needy ones that I am obliged to make full, make happy, make cookies. And most days I do end the day feeling like that generally-happy, but used-up stump.
But I think I am exhausted because I haven’t been giving ENOUGH back. I haven’t spent ENOUGH time doing those little things that take weight off the shoulders of friends, and stangers.
The not doing is what is making me tired.
So I think that Shel Silverstein didn’t quite get The Giving Tree right. It wasn’t the giving up and giving away that made the tree old, used up, and made us readers bummed.
It was knowing what the boy missed out on: not planting another tree for company, not sprinkling his friend with water, or planting the earth around her with bulbs to make her beautiful in the spring.
It’s the giving back that’s missing.
At Letters from a Small State, writer Elizabeth Howard examines how we survive and occasionally thrive in America, through the lens of our smallest details. A writer and poet living in Connecticut with her new family, she works daily in her own slivers of creative space and time. She also took the photograph.