Books from my childhood hold a special reverence with me to this day. Like most kids, growing up I was incapable of sitting still. I just couldn’t do it. The exception to that rule was story time. Open a book, and I was spellbound.Book time at my house was special. It was a time to be still as I sat curled up in my mother’s wing, breathing in her Jean Nate, and waiting to say those two little words on the last page.

There were four books I treasured most in my collection: Where The Wild Things Are, Curious George, Caps for Sale, and The Little Prince. Each book spoke to me and once welcomed into my world, stayed for long stretches of time.The book that would have the most significant impact on me though we didn’t even own. .

Since sitting still was a challenge, the 60 minutes I had to endure in church was a struggle of biblical proportions. One Sunday, stopping at the bookshelf in the foyer, I noticed amongst the bibles a bright green book with a treedropping an apple down to a boy. In the pew, I ran my hand across the cover, sounding out the title, The…Giv..ing…Treee. From that day forward, it sat across my lap every mass.

The Giving Tree taught me to read, The Giving Tree taught me to be still, it made church bearable; but what I never realized was The Giving Tree was the sermon I needed to hear each Sunday. It was a lesson in kindness, a lessonin sharing, and greed and forgiveness, and above all else, a lesson in unconditional love. To me the Giving Tree was church. And along with Jesus, my savior.

The last time I visited my sister I noticed how restless my niece was in church. I quickly opened my phone and downloaded my old friend. Amelia quietly swiped through the pages as I whispered sections to her. And as always, on thelast page, I tried not to cry. As she flipped to the picture of Shel Silverstein, I smiled at the man who taught me lessons I still carry today and who saved me each Sunday.

Written By: Robert Charles Gompers