As we unpacked our worldly possessions, it was a wondrous moment to rediscover an old treasure. It was not money, silver or gold. It was a book. If I had one book left to read before I closed my eyes for the last time it would be, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.
Why am I moved emotionally every single time I read the book? If you remember the story, the Apple tree simply gave the boy – everything – limbs, leaves, and fruit, all the way down to being a stump for the old boy to sit on and rest. The drawings are simple, the words to the story are simple, it only takes 10 minutes to read, and yet after I read the story I either get a lump in my throat, or I want to cry. I do not know why the book hits me so hard, but for me, I think the answer hides in the deceptively simple last sentence from the book, “And the tree was happy”.
If you think about your own life, when were you the happiest? I suspect after rolling that idea inside your mind, the answer that comes back out will likely be after you gave someone something, and you received a simple response, “thank you”. I think saying, “thank you”, comes in second to only one other statement, “I love you”. But I think the lesson I get from ‘The Giving Tree’ is that sometimes, “thank you” and “I love you”, mean the same thing.
As the Memorial Day weekend continues, after reading and hearing all the tributes to friends and family who have served in the military, and remembering those who have given their lives. I remember walking throughout Arlington National Cemetery and noticing the simple grave markers, and watching the volunteer Tomb Guard sentinels simply, quietly guarding The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Or, thinking about the simple white crosses pointing west toward home that covers Normandy American Cemetery. Or, I remember that I simply read the names off a simple granite wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
After I read The Giving Tree it reminds me to write using simple sentences with simple words. And that simple statements can sometimes mean the same thing, “thank you” and “I love you”. And all I have left to write and to say, “thank you” to all those that wore the uniform and defended my freedoms. And I hope and pray that any military veteran, or family member of those that gave their lives that read this simple blog post might think, “And the veteran was happy”.