Re-learning the Word ‘Generous’

As I was taking a walk, I ran into sweet B and his wonderful mom J. B is around  five years old (Korean age 6 maybe). He is the most imaginative, honest, and energetic Korean-American that I know.

We were in the car and B offered his mom one of his cookies. He said, “All of the cookies are broken except for one. Do you want the one that is not broken?” And J said, “Yes, sure! Wow, B, you are so generous!”

“What is generous?” B asked.

J explained something along the lines that being generous meant to give even though you might not necessarily have in abundance.

To that I added, “It’s something like this: Your friend asks you for a cookie. But instead of giving him one cookie, you decide to give him five cookies. Then we can say, ‘Wow! That was very generous of you!’ “

After a bit more expanding on the meaning of this word, we drifted on to other conversations.

Then, out of the blue, B says to me, “Here, have this!”

And what I see being put into my hands is a whole bar of sweets. Both his mom and I start laughing with joy at this.

The precious sweets I received from B.

We both exclaim, “Wow, B! This is so generous of you! It’s too generous!” 

B is beaming ear to ear. Soon he grabs some more sweets and puts them in my hands. I thank him profusely and say that he is very generous.

Then, we hear an honest confession that just make us love him more.

B says with a slightly despondent voice, “Oh, now I only have two sweets.”

Captivated by his honesty and generosity, I say, “Well, because B has been so generous with me, I want to be generous with him too!” So I give him five of the sweets he gave me back to him.

He gratefully receives them, but to my surprise, after a while, when we almost arrived to our destination, B puts four more sweets in my hands.

I ask him, “Are you sure? You gave me too many!”

And I can see in his eyes and mannerisms that he really wants to give me his precious sweets. I gratefully receive it and exclaim, “You are so generous!”

He beams.


I learned so much through little B today.

We, adults, think we know what words like ‘generous’ or ‘love’ mean, but don’t make the connection of transferring the good words we know into action. But this five-year-old, as soon as he learns the meaning of ‘generous’, decides to put it to practice.

It wasn’t easy for him because he could see his beloved sweets dwindling in numbers, but he realized there is joy in giving; there is joy in not stopping at just “knowing” what a nice word means, but actually doing it! There was an eagerness to connect head knowledge with action.

And his generosity is contagious.

His generosity inspires me to BE generous.



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