November 24, 2020

Is our society so sensitive we're missing opportunities to understand each other?

My oldest daughter has always loved the poetry of Shel Silverstein, and as a mother wanting to support her young love of verse, I bought several of his books.
One of Silverstein’s most notable and one of my daughter’s favorites was “The Giving Tree.”
The other night I went to our study and pulled the book from the shelf to reread it.
For those not familiar with the book, it is about a boy and a tree.
The poem starts out with the boy enjoying playing around the tree and the tree loving the boy, but as time progresses and the boy reaches different stages of his life, so too does the relationship between the boy and tree evolve.
Like most poems, one is always looking for the underlying meaning of its words, as is the case with “The Giving Tree.”
There are many thoughts that someone reading Silverstein’s message in his poem could take away.
Some see the poem as a statement to preserve the Earth while others see it as a demonstration of greed.
As the boy grows older, he is always asking the tree to give something to him until one day the only thing left of the tree is a stump.
However, each and every time the boy came to ask something of the tree, she was glad to see him.
My curiosity got the best of me as to what my daughter had taken away from the story, so I called her yesterday to ask how she interpreted the meaning of Silverstein’s poem.
She said she interpreted the story as one of a symbiotic connection. Both the boy and the tree were receiving something out of the relationship.
One book, many perceptual meanings, how apropos for the culture we are living in.
This week, football player Cam Newton was asked a question about the “routes” that were run during a football game.
The question happened to be asked by a female sports reporter and Newton’s comments were it was “funny to hear a female talk about routes.”
Some have seen his statement as one of disrespect for females while some like me probably view it as an innocent comment possibly made from his childhood days on the playground.
I know when I was younger, there were not a lot of girls tossing footballs and I certainly had no idea what a “route” was.
Am I sexist?
Our culture has become so hungry at looking for missteps of sexism and racism and all the other isms, I feel like somehow we are missing our real opportunity to bring people together.
We first need to try to understand backgrounds and cultures and religions more in depth. Instead of having politicians or media spout off what is correct, I would be more inclined to ask sociologists and theologians their take on behaviors and how our culture can learn from our differences and not judge our differences.
On the book jacket of “The Giving Tree” it states, “This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.”
We should all want to seek this message.
Read more: Are we missing out by being too sensitive? | The Vicksburg Post