Have you ever read the story of The Giving Tree? For those of us who can’t remember the plot quite as well, here’s a short summary of it.
The Giving Tree is the give-and-take story of a female apple tree and a boy. In his childhood, the boy was happy to play with the tree and eat the apples she gave him, taking pleasure in physical interactions with the tree itself. As he grew older however, he stopped playing with the tree, and instead only went to the tree whenever he wanted things from her – apples for sale and wood from her branches and trunk for building a house and a boat. The tree happily gave everything to the boy up to the point where she was nothing but a stump, and the boy did not visit her for a long period. Eventually he did go back to visit her, as an old man, and all he wanted was a quiet place to sit, and once again the tree happily offered her stump to him as a seat, and as she did so, she was happy.
Although it is meant to be a children’s story, there are many parallels to our daily lives, and life lessons we can learn from it with regards to giving.
There is Always Something You Can Give
The main lesson we can learn from this story, is the essence of the story itself – giving. Just like the tree who gave everything she could to the boy, up to the point where she had become a stump and continued to provide a seat for him, we too have much to offer, even when we think we have nothing. If you think you really have nothing to offer, something as seemingly insignificant as the gift of a smile or friendship might be enough to touch someone’s life. A positive attitude and a desire to give are all you need in order to give back even when you feel like you have nothing left to give.
Value Those Around You
In the story, the boy never realised just how much the tree had been continually giving to him, as he kept taking from her up to a point where he had no more wants except ‘a quiet place to sit and rest’. In our lives, there are many people who let their own wants take a backseat as they choose to give without taking anything back in exchange. If you’re like the boy and have yet to realise it, your parents are also part of this group of people who give to you unconditionally, so take the time to value and appreciate the people who have contributed to your life in any way. It doesn’t take much to show your appreciation, a simple thank you is usually enough to let people know they are appreciated.
Give Without Expectations
The tree was always happy at every stage, because all she wanted to do was to give, without wanting to receive anything in return. This is a very positive mindset when it comes to giving. If the tree were to have given to the boy with the intention of getting something in return, she would have been a very unhappy tree as the boy did not give her anything in return for her continued kindness. Instead she was happy to give, and found joy in the boy’s happiness. Likewise, we should not expect anything whenever we give, as this defeats the purpose of giving, and it would also result in unhappiness if you don’t receive anything after giving. Of course, you should also be able to understand when someone is making use of your kindness and giving nature and stop before you get hurt in the process.
Be There for People
It might come as a surprise but your presence may sometimes be the best present for someone who needs you. The tree was there for the boy throughout his whole life, even when he was not around. I’m not saying you should constantly be at someone’s beck and call, and hover in their periphery perpetually, but if you can, just be there for someone when they need it. You don’t necessarily have to give advice or prepare a comforting feast whenever someone is feeling down, all you need to do is be there and let them know that they are not alone. Sometimes, just being there is the best gift you can give.
Mind Your Ps and Qs
Last but not least, one very important lesson we can take away from the story of The Giving Tree is to always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ whenever you take or receive from others. It’s understandable that life is just not about giving, and sometimes we also receive, and so these magic words are incredibly important to take note of. In the story, the boy was constantly taking from the tree without even so much as a word of thanks in return. Even if you are constantly giving, you cannot expect to receive something in return just by sticking your hand out and saying ‘I want it’. Saying ‘please’ when asking for something makes it a more pleasant interaction, and of course, when you receive, it is always polite to say ‘thank you’.