Having openly declared just the other day that I want to blog more meaningfully, I thought I'd share something today that's been bugging me.
As I was pottering around the flat one Sunday evening, getting ready for bed and fending off the Sunday evening blues, I was fiven a book. "You have to read it," they said. "It's beautiful. It'll make you feel so good."
I snuggled down under my duvet, ready to feel infinitely better after reading this quaint tale. It's called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
If you don't know the story, I'll summarise. Essentially, it's a story about a boy and a tree. The tree adores the boy, letting him swing on its branches and eat its apples. The boy grows up and goes away, and the tree is sad. But one day, the boy (now a man) comes back wanting the apples from the tree to sell and make a profit. The tree is so happy and excited to see the man that it willingly gives all its apples to him. The man goes away and comes back years later wanting wood to make a house. The tree happily gives the man all its branches. The man goes away and comes back years later wanting a trunk to build a boat. The tree allows itself to be chopped down to a stump, so the man can build his boat. Lastly, the man comes back as a very old man, and needs somewhere to rest. The tree is so happy to see him that, despite having nothing left to give, offers his stump as a seat.
Maybe I've completely missed the point, as reams and reams of people online have spoken about what a beautiful and inspiring tale of selfless, altruistic love this is. But this book made me feel very, very sad and very, very angry.
Not one part of me can advocate this as a story to read to children. After all, what lesson does it offer? How to be a doormat? That it's good to be taken advantage of? It begs the question, can someone simply be too good? I've known a few in my time. People who have been so kind, so accommodating and so amenable that people have walked all over them. That's not to say that having a backbone is synonymous with being mean, but come on, self-preservation has to come into it. And just because I'm not willing to be taken advantage of, does not mean that I'm not kind, generous and supportive of people.
Would you be willing to give and give and give, getting nothing in return, and ending up as a lonely, broken old stump of a person? Or have I completely got the wrong end of the stick from The Giving Tree?
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