When I first read the poem The Giving Tree by Shel Siverstein, it broke my heart and I never wanted to read it again. A couple of years ago, my son picked it up at the book store and wanted to buy it. Re-reading this book and being in a different place in life, I have gained a new insight and perspective on it.
My original focus was on the boy and how selfish he was, taking from this tree to the point that there was nothing left. Now when I read it, I look to the tree and the spirit of giving it showed to the very end. As members of the human race, we have a choice – we can choose to be the boy, who takes without regard and thinks of no one but himself, or we can be the tree with unconditional love for others and our community.
Some people call this servant attitude to our community philanthropy. The definition of philanthropy as we know it is “charitable giving to human causes.” I love to look back over the origins of words and I was pleasantly surprised to see in the original Greek, philanthropy means “love of mankind.”
The tree in our poem is a philanthropist. But why is it so important to focus on others and on our community when it is already so hard to get ahead?
I think George Bernard Shaw says it best: “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community. And as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got hold of for a short moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generation.”
Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all he places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you can. ~ (Anonymous)
Arise out of your ordinary self and achieve something greater than yourself. Be the tree!