Ah, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Perhaps a parent or teacher read this to you when you were younger, or perhaps your child borrowed it from the library or purchased it from a school book sale. If you’re anything like me, the mere thought of this story makes you choke up a little. Just in case you need a refresher, or if you’ve never heard/read it before, you can see and hear it narrated by the author on Youtube.
This simple but poignant story about a boy and the generous tree is a wonderful teaching tool for children and adults alike.
As a parent, teacher, or grove organizer/leader, you can ask the children what they notice in the illustrations. They’ll see the human child getting older and perhaps notice that the tree never stops referring to him as a boy. “Why do you think that is?” you could ask. Invite children to recall the various gifts the tree gives. “Does the boy give anything back?” Some may realize that the boy never even says thank you!
If you’re reading to children at a grove function, or if you decided to read this story before discussing nature awareness, the Nature Spirits, or the importance of reciprocity within Druidism with a group of adults, you can go into deeper discussion. The tree could be a symbol for the Earth Mother while the boy symbolizes all of humanity. You could meditate on the purity and simple desires of the child versus the more complex and arguable destructive wants/needs of the adult. How can we be more like the child than the adult in the story?
Children and adults alike could make a personal connection. “Do/did you have a special tree? What kind of tree is it? What does that tree give you? How can you say thank you to the tree?” This could become a brainstorming activity in which people think of individual or group projects to give back to the Nature Spirits.