The Giving Tree(s)

by Mary Johnson, Director of Children's Ministries and All Things Bright & Beautiful 

One of my favorite books is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I hesitate to call it a children's book, because I think adults have come to love it as much as children. It almost wasn't published because everyone that the author submitted it to found it "too sad" for children and "too simple" for adults. Ultimately, Harper and Row printed 5,000 copies in 1964. By 2012, it was listed as #9 on the list of Best Children's' Books, with over 8.5 million copies sold and translations in numerous languages.

There are multiple interpretations: 1. Religious - the story of unconditional love. 2. Environmental - the responsibility humans have for living things in the environment. 3. Friendship - the relationship between the boy and the tree is friendship. 4. Parent-Child Relationship - a story about giving. There were some interpretations that were very negative but since they were not at all how I see the book (and I'm writing this article), I chose not to include them!

So why the article on The Giving Tree? In the past year, there have been four very beautiful trees planted in celebrations or remembrances that are significant for me. And, as I recount the stories of these four trees, it took me back to my childhood home at 160 State Street in Dubuque, Iowa. I was probably eight or nine years old when my father planted a tree for Mother's Day in our front yard. My mother was delighted with the tree, a beautiful red maple sapling, and my father nurtured it with tender loving care. This is especially noteworthy because he was NOT a gardener, nor very concerned with the landscaping in general. But this tree was special for both the giver and the recipient. I remember so clearly the day it was planted. I was able to make a circle with my hands around the trunk of the tree - fingers touching. Now, when I return to Dubuque and we drive by the old house, I marvel at how big and beautiful it is.

Of the four more recently planted trees, two are celebrations, and two are remembrances. And they all accomplish the goal of providing a significant way to honor the individuals for whom they are planted.

Last spring, my siblings bought a lilac tree that we planted in our back yard. It is in remembrance of Cary's mother, Edna Johnson. My family remembers her from family reunions; especially the one in Colorado when she went white water rafting with us at the age of 65! Now we have the tree as a visual reminder of all that she meant to our family.





Last fall, a Triumph Elm tree was planted in front of our house on Roger Ave. to celebrate Cary's birthday. Cary has such a passion for trees and he is sad that the community has lost so many over the years. Thus, the planting of this tree made him very happy! Perfect birthday gift!








At the end of this school year, the ATB&B Junior Kindergarten students and teachers planted a sunset maple tree on the parkway in front of CHC in memory of Anne Feeney's mother and sister who passed away last fall. Anne, her children, and her siblings are very grateful for the tree because the appreciation of the beauty of nature was such a part of her mother and sister.




And now the description of the most recent tree planted: the Haljun tree. In anticipation of Bill and Barbara's 50th wedding anniversary, their children wanted to commemorate the occasion with the planting of a tree. This has been a constant theme in their family as Tory, their daughter, explained. When the children, and now grandchildren, come to this community they can drive past the various homes in which they have lived and identify the trees they have planted. And now there is one planted here - at their church home - with a plaque that identifies it as the gift for their anniversary. To bring this tree story full circle, I asked Ellie and Will, the two oldest grandchildren, to put their hands around the tree trunk - fingers touching. My hope is that when they come back every year to visit, they will remember the day these photos were taken with their grandparents and will measure the passage of time by the growth of the tree: a living testament to the love and strength of 50 years of a beautiful marriage and a legacy to pass on to their grandchildren!

May we all be so blessed as to have someone in our lives plant a tree for us one day.