Emily B.

Second Place Winner

As a young child, my family and I would read together every night. Each night, my brother and I took turns choosing the book. When I was about 5, I remember choosing one particular book over and over again, night after night after night. At the time I chose it because it was short, I could read it on my own, and for some reason I was drawn to the pictures and characters. However, as I reflect back on this book today, I realize that the book's foundation and message have helped me grow into the person I am today. This book, which was, and is still, so close to my heart, is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. In this story, a boy grows up, and through all stages of his life, asks the tree for many things. The tree always gives what is asked, regardless of how it is personally affected, in order to make the boy happy. This selfless act of giving may seem foolish to some, especially as the tree ended up nothing but a stump. But in the end, even the stump made the boy happy, which in turn made the tree happy. This has taught me that giving of oneself in order to better the lives of others is what brings true happiness and self-fulfillment. This general idea has always been at the core of my being; my main priority in life is doing all I can to make the lives of the people around me better and happier. I live my life in service through Kids Against Hunger, the Sussex Leos Club, National Honor Society, and Student Council, constantly helping others and trying hard not to ask for anything in return. This book has also impacted my future plans. I know that whatever career I choose needs to have a foundation of helping others. Because I love doing art, my plan is to gain a Masters degree in Art Therapy and an American Sign Language certification in order to become an art therapist, specializing in working with deaf children. These goals are lofty, but as long as I remember the spirit of the Giving Tree, giving of myself to help these children learn, grow, and heal, while asking for nothing in return, I know that personal happiness is inevitable. As a child, The Giving Tree just seemed like another story on the shelf. I didn't realize then that the impact of reading it every day would engrain the spirit of its message into me, and affect my life choices for many years. As I continue on in life, through college and into the work force, I hope to always remember the essence of the Giving Tree. I know that as long as I give what I can to others in order to better their lives, my own life will be great as well. To give is to receive, so the more happiness I can share, the happier I shall become.