Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Because THAT'S what Love DOES"

I have been teaching for 10 years. One of the things I love most about our profession is the unique opportunity that we have as teachers, to incorporate our “favorites” into our profession and our day-to-day life. Have a favorite color? Make it the jump-off point of your classroom decor! Have a favorite recipe? Make it with your class as part of a demonstration in “How-To Writing”! Have an interest in film? Find a spare room in your school to create a green-screen studio for student-centered movie-making! I doubt doctors and lawyers find it as easy to share their passions with their patients and clients as we do with our students! One more perk of the job (as if you didn’t love it enough already!) All of this to say that I love the book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. When I was a science teacher, I read it to Kindergarteners during our Trees, Wood, and Paper Unit and tied it in to renewable resources. For the last six years as a fourth grade teacher, I read the story to my class each year to discuss Theme, Empathy & Gratitude. At home, its a go-to bedtime story for my own children Alana & Connor, who will make me start the book all over again if I don’t do the voices of the Tree & boy “just right”. In this, the first week of my school year and my first year in 2nd grade, I wanted to incorporate this favorite once again by sharing it with my new class. I have to say that 2nd graders give WAY MORE audible feedback during a read aloud than 4th graders. As I shared the story (which was familiar to about half of the class), the students giggled, smiled and nodded their heads as we read about the boy loving the tree and the tree loving the boy.
As the story progresses, and the boy keeps coming back to the tree and taking what he needs and then leaving, the giggles and nods are replaced by gasps and head shaking. One student says, “This is bad! He just keeps taking things and then leaving her all alone!”
At the end of each visit from the boy, where the tree offers him the part of herself that he needs and then watches as he walks away with it, the author states that “the tree was happy” and several students seem confused by this. One student even sneaks up closer to me, to look over my shoulder and make sure I’m reading that part right. *heartsmile*

I ask them, “Why do you think the tree is happy?”
The responses are varied:

Disgruntled: “She’s not happy, she’s just saying that”
Appalled: “If he keeps taking things from her she won’t have anything left!”
Thoughtful: “Maybe she is happy because she knows he will keep coming back again!”

I keep reading, and the boy does come back again, needing something different to “be happy”. The gasps continue and I feel myself becoming indignant right along with them. I say, “Can you believe this guy? He’s back again and he won’t play in her shade or swing from her branches like she wants him to, he just wants to cut down her trunk and build a boat and sail away!?!?!?!” They join me in my quiet outrage, murmuring to each other about the boy. “Isn’t he selfish? Isn’t he greedy!?”

I sit back in my chair with an exasperated sigh, close the book and say “I don’t think I can read this’s just too sad and it’s making us all upset!”

The “Noooooo” and “keep reading!!!” cries (that feed my teacher soul), echo all around the room. I sigh and try to look hesitant as I reopen the book and say “if you insist” I revel a little as they all become quiet and lean in closer...The story finishes with the boy, an old man now, finally coming back and deciding that all he needs from the tree is to be with her and rest. She, an old stump, offers what she has left so that he sits and stays a while. “And the tree was happy.”

I close the book and ask, “Boys and Girls, WHY did the tree keep giving and giving to the boy, even though she knew he was just going to go away, and even though she was running out of things to give him?”

I will pause here to admit Readers, that I momentarily sold my 2nd graders short in my mind today. I expected answers like “because she’s a nice tree” or “because its a good friend”. Perhaps it was because my expectations were too tempered, that I was so moved by the first response I got. A boy sitting close to me was wiggling his fingers in my face with his lips pursed tightly to stifle the sounds he wanted to make, but knew would disqualify him from being called on. Impressed by his silent enthusiasm I chose him first. He took a deep breath and then offered this:

“Because…..That’s what Love does”

This answer stopped me in my tracks for just a second. It reminded me of a book I read in the Spring by the same Title (Love Does, By Bob Goff) and it struck me as being an absolutely perfect and simple answer to a very complex question.

That’s exactly what love does. Love says “If I have what you need, I will give it to you” and love doesn’t count the cost. Love says, “If you’re happy, I’m happy” even when your happiness takes you away from me, or diverts your attention to other things. LOVE DOES whatever it can to show itself with intentionality, to give of itself and Love is made happy through the giving, so much so that depletion of self goes almost unnoticed.

I was humbled and inspired by this reminder of what Love does in us, for us and through us, if we are brave enough to let it do what Love does best.

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