‘Everything will fall into place’
BY KIM HASTY
It was many years ago, when I was a young mother and often exhausted, that someone presented me with the book, “The Giving Tree.” I read the book quickly and then placed it on a shelf where, over the years, it has shared space with a variety of other keepers: “A Civil Action,” by Jonathan Harr; a copy of “Little Women” that was a gift from a dear friend when my first child was born; several books by the wonderful Anna Quindlen and a copy of “Go Set a Watchman,” loaned long ago from another friend and still in need of return.
The late Shel Silverstein wrote “The Giving Tree” in 1964. The book, with its glossy green cover and simple drawing of an apple tree and a boy, is billed as a children’s book. Its lessons, which are still debated all these years later, seem nevertheless quite profound. The story is well-known to the documented millions who have purchased the book. The boy loves to play in and around the tree, but then gets older and looks to the tree only for the benefit afforded by its apples, its limbs and, eventually, its trunk. In the end, the boy is an old man left sitting on the only thing left of the tree, its stump.
Some say the book is a cautionary tale for the givers of the world as well as the takers. After all, not once does the boy thank the tree for its gifts. And not once does the tree admonish the boy for failing to show his appreciation.
In all my years as a writer, I’ve interviewed many remarkable givers who were generous in a variety of overwhelmingly remarkable ways. People who have fed children, taken in stray animals, knitted caps for newborns, prepared Thanksgiving turkeys for families in need, served daily hot breakfasts to the homeless, written checks for the construction of athletic stadiums and concert halls and affordable housing. Children who have sold cups of lemonade and given the money to help other children in need.
So many people who, for one reason or another, are committed down deep inside to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
I cannot recall one of them who seemed to ever expect a single thing in return. “My parents always taught me to stay in the shadows,” says one of this year’s four winners of CityView’s Community Impact Awards. “Do good things for people and everything will fall into place.”
As “The Giving Tree” reminds us, life will not always be equitable, and gratitude will not always be forthcoming. Still, everything will fall into place. And what a privilege it has been to meet so many, many people who believe that.