The Giving Tree

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The Giving Tree


I am pretty sure the Giving Tree is across the street from where I am living while attending Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. I don’t mean the actual Giving Tree from Shel Silverstein’s precious children’s book, but I sure think I found its descendant or at least its spirit of generosity!  

Gently, discreetly, and without fanfare the tree down the block is a beacon of giving. Mysteriously, things of usefulness and quality appear around the tree, and just as mysteriously they disappear. Some generous soul simply leaves items. Just as simply, someone in need comes to retrieve. I have seen everything from clothes and toys to cleaning supplies and tools come and go. 

Isn’t that how God is with us? Everything we need, from the air we breathe to the friends we make, is given to us. Our gifts and talents, our spiritual and temporal needs, and everything we can name come from God. I mean everything, just like the items around the Giving Tree on South Cornell Avenue, are free and from God!

“Thank you” hardly seems enough response to such generosity. Maybe that is why the neighborhood Giving Tree struck me so. It is as if the Giving Tree is a response to the generosity of God. Being a recipient of God’s generosity calls us to be generous in return.

All of this has inspired me to reflect upon generosity, the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly. I have thought about how generosity involves giving to others, not just anything left-over or unwanted, but rather things that are good for others. Generosity is not a random idea or haphazard performance. Rather, it is a practiced attitude and an intentional behavior. I have thought how generosity calls us to be free from meanness and smallness. It is giving in a willing and cheerful manner for the good of others. In a deep way, generosity is to fall more deeply in love with our generous God so that we may be generous.

Dear Lord, teach me to be generous as You have been generous with me.
Teach me that all I am and all I have are gifts from You and all is meant to be shared. Show me the joys of generosity. Help me to understand that others, perhaps others unknown to me, depend on me for help. Amen.









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“Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.”
–Henri Nouwen