Jason Wright: Christmas jars changed outlook

Jason Wright

Jason Wright

Imagine the most selfish person you knew growing up.

Now picture me.

I win.

For most of my life, the world has revolved around my wants and needs, particularly during the holidays. I think I’ve often used my experiences with grief as a selfish, wooden crutch. The longer I lean, the more splinters I get to pull.

Then, 10 years ago, I had an awakening.

Late one evening in October 2004, I sat beside my wife in our quiet living room and pitched an idea. In the meandering discussion, I shared aloud what I suspected she already knew: I was self-centered, and because of it, the green and gold holidays had become a gray and blue fog.

Sure, the mood brightened a bit on Christmas Day, but then I hastily packed it up with the extra wrapping paper and stored it in the basement closet. Christmas had become a 24-hour holiday and I needed to change.

Little did I know that it was exactly that — change — that would change me.

In that simple conversation, I suggested we place an empty mason jar on our kitchen counter and fill it with our spare pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Every day when we came home from school, work, the grocery store or the dry cleaner, each member of the family would drop our change in the jar.

As we did, we would pause and take a moment to think about the needs of someone else and what the word “give” really means.

Finally, when Christmas Eve arrived, we would carefully select a family to give the jar to anonymously. My wife loved the idea, and before we said goodnight, a pickle jar was washed and placed on the counter.

Over the next eight weeks it slowly rose, like a tide of colorful copper, zinc and nickel. Trust me: when coins clink and clank in a jar, the sound is magical. Christmas was happening in our home every single day.

On Christmas Eve, we chose a family a few neighborhoods away and left a jar with almost $100 on their porch. Not enough to change their lives, but enough to send a message.

We see you. We love you.

The joy of giving rode home with us in the minivan and never went away. I believe that for the first time in their young lives, my young children knew what Christmas was all about.

Who am I kidding? For the first time in my life, I knew what Christmas was all about, too.

So much has unfolded in the 10 years since. One more baby joined the jar delivery gang. A New York Times best-selling novel was published — “Christmas Jars” — that changed our lives and launched the writing career I’d always dreamed about.

Most importantly, many more Christmas jars have been given away by my gang and thousands more around the world. Incredibly, the little book has become a big movement.

We estimate based on the number of books sold, the stories submitted to the website and the average amount per jar ($200), the Christmas Jars movement has given away over $15 million in spare change.

Over the coming days, these jars will be given away to families with all kinds of needs: spiritual, emotional and, of course, financial. But as I always say, it’s not what comes out of the jar that matters most — it’s what goes in.

As the movement celebrates its 10th birthday, I invite you to take the challenge and experiment with a Christmas Jar today. I promise that no matter the time of year, the temperature outside or the size of the jar, you’ll find yourself thinking about the needs of another.

It’s not too late for 2014! Your neighbor bank teller will gladly convert a few bills to a few more heavy rolls of coins.

Take it from someone with some Christmas Jars history. This simple tradition has helped me discover that it’s possible to celebrate Christmas every single day of the year.

Merry Christmas Jars!

Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including “Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The 13th Day of Christmas.” He can be reached at feedback@jasonfwright.com or http://www.jasonfwright.com

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