Generosity: How Much is too much?

Dear Friends,

Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all the moms and grandmothers out there! Here is a lovely photo Jill Galloway Sherman sent us of her beautiful daughter: 

A WISH by Jill Galloway Sherman
Spring walk with my girl makes my day.

Speaking of motherhood, this week we saw an interesting article about teaching children the importance of generosity in contrast to selfishness:

Remember The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein?  It is a longtime classic, but like many classics when you take a closer look there can be a conflicting message. For those of you who need reminding of the story, the Giving Tree gives so much love to the little boy, that she is reduced to a stump. She finds happiness when the little boy, now an old man, comes to sit on her. As the Times article says, this story is not about generosity as it first appears – it is about something much more sinister – self-sacrifice to an astonishing degree. This level of self-sacrifice is not good for anyone. It teaches the child to be selfish and it reduces the giver to a hollow shell of herself, a stump literally. In the article, The NY Times cites research showing that people who neglect themselves become anxious and depressed. They are also less effective. For example, teachers who are selfless have students who do worse on standardized tests. Self-sacrifice is a recipe for burnout.

“Here’s a conversation you might consider having with your children after reading ‘The Giving Tree’. Imagine that the boy was not so selfish and the tree not so selfless. Imagine that the boy hadn’t so quickly and completely discarded the apples, but rather, had planted their seeds. Imagine the tree had not been reduced to a lonely stump, but had been surrounded by a whole forest of other trees. Imagine a different ending where the boy, now grown, returned with his own children to visit the tree. Imagine a new generation of children swinging from the branches and resting in its shade. Part of the power of ‘The Giving Tree’ is experiencing the passage of time. Imagine the kind of lesson that would be.”

We, at SeeingHappy, like this scenario much better.

When taking photos of people, places, or things, which play a role in our lives, meditate on this idea of how the passage of time can be used to re-frame the subject of the photograph. What you find might be surprising…

The Team at SeeingHappy

Roger Irwin

Roger Irwin is passionate about understanding the intersection of the arts and human development. He is researching how media intake and creativity based interventions can help people explore their strengths. He is a candidate for the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania.

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