"The Giving Tree," written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein, begins: "Once there was a tree ... and she loved a little boy."
Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches or slide down her trunk ... and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave.
"The Giving Tree" is 64 pages, but it isn't hard to read. After you're done, you can talk to your parents about whether the tree sacrifices too much or not, and whether the boy is selfish in what he asks of the tree. The book is more than 40 years old, but its message could have been written yesterday.
There's also an old fable called "Stone Soup" that shows how a little can go a long way. There are several different version of the story floating around.
According to one, during a great famine in Europe, a hungry traveler comes to a village with no food to eat, but he is carrying an empty pot. The villagers won't share any of their food with him, so he fills the pot with water, takes a large stone out of his bag and drops it in the pot. He then puts the pot over a fire in the middle of the village.
When asked what he is doing, the man answers that he is making "stone soup."
The villagers think the man is nuts, but as the man sniffs the "soup" and licks his lips, hunger takes over their disbelief.
"Ahh," the man says out loud to himself, "I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage -- that's the best."
Soon a villager adds a cabbage from his garden to the pot.
"Great!" says the man. "You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of beef as well, and it was delicious!"
When the butcher hears this, he adds some meat. Then another villager brings potatoes. Soon everyone is putting something into the soup: onions, carrots, mushrooms and so on, until there is a delicious meal for all. The stone was just a way of starting the process.
What we learn from this story is that if everyone works together, each giving what they can, good things can happen.
We'd love to know how you like to give back to your community: Do you donate tzedakah? Pack food for the needy? Or even take care of your younger siblings when your mom and dad are busy? E-mail us at email@example.com with stories or pictures and we'll run them on an upcoming yeLAdim page.
Holidays NOT on the Calendar
Aug. 5: International Friendship Day. Take some time today to meet someone new, whether they live across the country or across the street. You can never have too many friends.
Aug. 13: Left Hander's Day. Though only 10 percent of the population is left handed, they haven't had it easy. Most things out there (like scissors and school desks) are designed for righties. So if you have a friend or family member who is left handed, give 'em a big hug today.
Wild About Harry?
We're guessing that by now many of you have read "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," and we want to know what you thought of it.
What was your favorite part? Was it a good ending? Was it disappointing? How would you have ended it? Do you think J.K. Rowling should write more books about Harry Potter or Hogwarts or the wizarding community?
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll print your thoughts in August.