Giving and taking

Have you ever read the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein?

I’m sure you have at least had someone read it to you as a child, but if the plot is currently slipping your mind, here’s the run-down (spoiler alert):

A little boy visited a tree every day to eat her apples, swing from her branches, and slide down her trunk. He enjoyed playing with her, and the tree enjoyed watching him play.

As he grew older, he began visiting the tree less and less. Eventually, he only visited the tree whenever he wanted something. First, he gathered her apples and sold them to make money. Then, he used her branches to build a house. He then used her trunk to construct a boat, leaving a stump where the tree once stood. Each time he took something from the tree, the tree “was happy.”

Finally, the boy was an old man. He approached what was left of the tree and said he simply wanted a quiet place to sit. The tree, now a stump, offered herself for him to sit on, and the tree “was happy.”

This was one of my favorite books when I was little. I’m not sure why, but it just spoke to me. Personally, I have always been a people-pleaser, so perhaps I just related to the tree.

The tree was willing to give up everything for the boy, simply because she cared about him. She was willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the boy, and the boy knew this, so he took advantage of her.

If you’re like me, you are the tree. You want to give as much as you possibly can. You want to help people and make them feel whole. You want to cheer them up when they’re sad and pick the perfect birthday or Christmas present that will make their face light up.

Fair warning: people will notice this about you, and, unfortunately, they will take advantage of this.

This doesn’t mean you have to change who you are. You just have to be careful. Give and give and take care of people as much as you possibly can, but the moment you notice when someone is asking you for more than they should, stop. Not only will continuing to help them hurt you, but it will also hurt them. They will become dependent on you, and not know how to live on their own.

Now, if you’re on the other side of that relationship, being that you take and take and can never have enough, you need to open your eyes. It’s time to show appreciation for the person giving so much of their time and energy to you. Show that you’re thankful, and that this person matters to you. Next time you find yourself asking something of this person, reverse the roles. Give to them.

There needs to be a happy balance of giving and taking in your life. Be the person that gives to others. Spread your kindness and love. Trust me, it’s rewarding. However, sometimes you also need to take. Let others help you. Let them share their love and experiences with you.

Some days you have to be the little boy, and some days you have to be the giving tree, but never limit yourself to just one or the other.

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