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The meaning of life is to find your gift.
The purpose of life is to give it away.
― Pablo Picasso
When Giving Is All We Have
by Alberto Ríos
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
“When Giving Is All We Have” from A Small Story About the Sky, © 2014 by Alberto Ríos – Copper Canyon Press
Alberto Ríos (1952 – ) is the author of twelve books of poetry and prose. In 2013, he was named as the inaugural poet laureate of the state of Arizona. Ríos is a National Book Award finalist, as well a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, six Pushcart Prizes in both poetry and fiction, and the Walt Whitman Award. He teaches at Arizona State University and is the host of the PBS program “Books & Co.”
by Robert Graves
Those who dare give nothing
Are left with less than nothing;
Dear heart, you give me everything,
Which leaves you more than everything-
Though those who dare give nothing
Might judge it left you less than nothing.
Giving you everything,
I too, who once had nothing,
Am left with more than everything
As gifts for those with nothing
Who need, if not our everything,
At least a loving something.
“On Giving” from Collected Poems 1965 © by Robert Graves – Cassell & Co
Robert Graves (1895-1985) British historical novelist, poet, critic, and classicist; best known for his novel, I, Claudius, which was adapted with its sequel, Claudius the God, by the BBC into the award-winning television series, I, Claudius. Graves was also a prolific poet who published nearly three dozen collections of poetry during his lifetime.
The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein
Once there was a tree….
and she loved a little boy.
And everyday the boy would come
and he would gather her leaves
and make them into crowns
and play king of the forest.
He would climb up her trunk
and swing from her branches
and eat apples.
And they would play hide-and-go-seek.
And when he was tired,
he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree….
And the tree was happy.
But time went by.
And the boy grew older.
And the tree was often alone.
Then one day the boy came to the tree
and the tree said, ‘Come, Boy, come and
climb up my trunk and swing from my
branches and eat apples and play in my
shade and be happy.’
‘I am too big to climb and play’ said
‘I want to buy things and have fun.
I want some money?’
‘I’m sorry,’ said the tree, ‘but I
have no money.
I have only leaves and apples.
Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in
the city. Then you will have money and
you will be happy.’
And so the boy climbed up the
tree and gathered her apples
and carried them away.
And the tree was happy.
But the boy stayed away for a long time….
and the tree was sad.
And then one day the boy came back
and the tree shook with joy
and she said, ‘Come, Boy, climb up my trunk
and swing from my branches and be happy.’
‘I am too busy to climb trees,’ said the boy.
‘I want a house to keep me warm,’ he said.
‘I want a wife and I want children,
and so I need a house.
Can you give me a house ?’
‘ I have no house,’ said the tree.
‘The forest is my house,
but you may cut off
my branches and build a
house. Then you will be happy.’
And so the boy cut off her branches
and carried them away
to build his house.
And the tree was happy.
But the boy stayed away for a long time.
And when he came back,
the tree was so happy
she could hardly speak.
‘Come, Boy,’ she whispered,
‘come and play.’
‘I am too old and sad to play,’
said the boy.
‘I want a boat that will
take me far away from here.
Can you give me a boat?’
‘Cut down my trunk
and make a boat,’ said the tree.
‘Then you can sail away…
and be happy.’
And so the boy cut down her trunk
and made a boat and sailed away.
And the tree was happy
… but not really.
And after a long time
the boy came back again.
‘I am sorry, Boy,’
said the tree,’ but I have nothing
left to give you –
My apples are gone.’
‘My teeth are too weak
for apples,’ said the boy.
‘My branches are gone,’
said the tree. ‘ You
cannot swing on them – ‘
‘I am too old to swing
on branches,’ said the boy.
‘My trunk is gone, ‘ said the tree.
‘You cannot climb – ‘
‘I am too tired to climb’ said the boy.
‘I am sorry,’ sighed the tree.
‘I wish that I could give you something….
but I have nothing left.
I am just an old stump.
I am sorry….’
‘I don’t need very much now,’ said the boy.
‘just a quiet place to sit and rest.
I am very tired.’
‘Well,’ said the tree, straightening
herself up as much as she could,
‘well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting
Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.
“The Giving Tree” from The Giving Tree, © by 1964, 1992 by Evil Eye Music, Inc. – Harper Collins
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999), beloved children’s book author, poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, and screenwriter, has over 20 million books in print in 30 languages.
by Hollie McNish
Mum held out her palm that day. Runner-bean seeds. I was about
eight years old and my brother ten. Mum marked us a small patch
of soil each and we shoved our index fingers in poke by poke into
the dirt, dropping one seed into each hollow. We danced across
the garden, watering cans tumbling. We waited impatiently.
We made the seed sachets into flags, sellotaped to lolly sticks.
We labeled them in our best writing. Then we stood back,
triumphant as our own moon-landing marks.
Each day after school we ran out to watch, as ever so slowly
Sprouts crept through the soil. Mum stuck a gigantic wooden
pole amongst each of our patches of shoots and we fidgeted as
plants began winding their way up. My brother noticed flowers
first, orange bursts which soon blossomed and stuck out their
runner-bean tongues at us.
We stuck our tongues out too.
My brother began to pick and crunch. I huffed. Mum said some
things take more time, Hollie as I wracked my brain for what I had
done wrong. Not one flower. I watered; waited some more. Then
one morning, my brother squealed, raced into my bedroom,
grabbed my hand and ran me excitedly outside. From nothing,
my plant had very mysteriously sprouted twenty, if not more,
identical and gigantic runner beans over night
I didn’t question it
just stared – held my brother’s hand
beaming with delight
i hadn’t seen you in your nightie, mum
sneaking out in moonbeams, clutching
torch, brought beans and sewing kit
i didn’t see the threads at first
meticulous, your running stitch
i didn’t see your slippers soiled;
back hunched, weary
in that tricky light
Just stood with my big brother
held his hand tight;
“LOVE” from Plum, © 2017 by Hollie McNish – Picador/PanMacmillian
Holly McNish (1984 – ) studied French and German at King’s College, Cambridge, before earning a master’s degree in Development Economics. She became known, under the name Holly Poetry, when she won the U.K. Poetry Slam Contest in 2009, and was third in the global Slam Du Monde contest. McNish has been a popular guest on several BBC Radio programs, and her You Tube videos have been seen by over 4 million viewers. She has also published five books of poetry: Papers, Cherry Pie, Why I Ride, Nobody Told Me, and Plum.