Monday, December 21, 2009

Hope and Change

Everyone has change.

Some throw it in old coffee cans, mason jars or any other miscellaneous container they have lying around. The less organized may not have a central location; couch cushions, dresser tops, and pockets are where their coins seem to accumulate. Me? I have a bottle on the top of my refrigerator marked "Wine Money" where I throw my spare silver. (Just for the record, I've never actually used the money for wine.)

So what do you do with all that money once your container is chock-full of change?

A good friend of mine gave me a wonderful idea, inspired by the book "Christmas Jars" by Jason F. Wright. He had been accumulating change for nearly two years, and after reading the book, decided to turn his extra fortune into a life lesson for his young daughter. They took the jar to the bank and walked out with nearly $200 in cash, which they in turn used to purchase needed items for a local Peoria shelter. He set up a tour of the shelter for his daughter and him, and they were able to both experience not only a first-person view of the hardships that some people in our community are going through, but how much contributions such as theirs mean to the organization and the individuals it serves.

Now, in the book, journalist Hope Jensen is devastated when her adoptive mother dies from ovarian cancer shortly after Christmas. Adding to her woes, her apartment is broken into and all of her emergency cash stolen. Hope then discovers that someone has left her a gift - a glass mason jar labeled "Christmas Jar" filled with money. Using her investigative skills, she learns that in recent years, several people have reported receiving these mysterious jars in times of need.

That's an option as well. But I think what my friend did was an important step in nurturing the "giving back" trait that seems to be getting lost in today's youth. It's one thing as an adult to do a good deed just for the sake of it, but sometimes kids need to see how their generosity really makes a difference in order to instill that altruistic spirit as they grow and mature.

My friend has inspired me to replace my "Wine Money" bottle and start a Christmas Jar with my kids at the beginning of next year. Just think if everyone followed suit - how blessed some needy people could be this time next year.

Make your next holiday season full of hope... and change.

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