5 Lessons to Learn from Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’

The Giving Tree taught me a lot growing up. I think many people can relate. It taught me lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life!

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The Giving Tree Book cover

Shel Silverstein created the magical story The Giving Tree on October 7, 1964. In the narrative, we meet a little boy and his captivating relationship with a tree. He runs around her trunk, climbing the branches, and eating apples as he wishes. It’s a friendship anyone wants where you can goof off with and just hang out and grub. Doing it alone can be depressing.

As the boy grows up, he seems not to care about the tree and only comes around to take things from her. It isn’t until the very end that they are reunited. It’s a bittersweet moment because now the boy is a grumpy old man who simply needs a seat to sit on. And even after all these years, the tree allows him her stump. The story has always resonated with me, so I’m going to share with you the lessons I got from this exhilarating story!

Be Thankful for Your Friends

Shel Silverstein's, The giving tree screen grab of the boy reaching for the trees leaves

A friend doesn’t owe you anything! Except an ear to borrow and shared laughter of common interests. And, of course, a shoulder to cry on. That’s it. They owe you nothing materially. Even if your friend does give you something materially, you must recognize their efforts. It’s so simple to say thank you, or you can give them a gift back. This is not to say you must offer them something equally as valuable. It’s the thought that counts. Right?

Growing Old Kills Your Inner Child

The boy is asking the tree for money

Your world gets pretty tainted when the years go by. Between the last year of elementary and the first year of junior high, it’s a massive jump toward adulthood. You begin to forget the little things like waking up at six in the morning, Full House playing, and your grandma making you Eggo waffles. Sadly, the syrup is sugar-free because grandpa has to watch his sugar.

Those memories begin to fade, and it’s not until you’re in your twenties that you appreciate those small moments on Monday mornings before school. Then you wish you were a kid.

Have Self-Respect

The Giving Tree screen grab of taking the trees wood

You know that overused saying: You can’t love someone until you love yourself? It can be a bit of a drag, but changing the word ‘love’ to ‘respect’ makes all the more sense: You can’t respect someone else if you can’t respect yourself. Don’t ever let someone disrespect you, especially if you constantly put that person above yourself. There are boundaries people should not cross, and the boy crossed the line with the tree until she had nothing to give.

Just because you love someone doesn’t mean they deserve you.

Say it with me, “Just because you love someone doesn’t mean they deserve you!” I know! Like, what do you mean? I love them, so I don’t care about their flaws. However, you should only care if it affects your mental state. It would be best if you were with someone that earns your respect, not someone who only uses you for their convenience.

Side by side photo of the boy hugging  the tree and when he is older, he is sitting on an old stump.

Getting Older Sucks

We can hate the boy in the story all we want, but at the end of the day, he’s just a reflection of us. We all have set milestones that we want to conquer in some way. At eighteen, we must graduate high school. In our early twenties, we need to have a degree. In our mid-twenties, we should have a stable job. We should plan on getting married in our late twenties, and in our early thirties, we start buying houses and maybe having some kids. Of course, not everyone has these milestones in mind. Everyone has their own path they want to create, but we can all agree that the pressure on our future is constant!

This is some heavy stuff. I mean, this is a children’s book, for crying out loud, but Shel Silverstein wrote The Giving Tree for all ages. We can all relate to this sad story of friendship, love, and heartbreak at different periods of our life.

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