Last week, after nearly four months, the Mason jar that sat at the center of our kitchen table, was finally ready for delivery.
We usually throw our loose change into another container and call it something like “the go-kart fund” or whatever fun family thing we’re saving for. But this jar was different. We didn’t know who the growing collection of coins was for, just that we would give it away when the time came.
We had heard of saving change in a “Christmas Jar” to be given away that week in December but didn’t get one started until we got a nudge one Sunday at church. The front of the sanctuary that morning gleamed with more than a hundred empty jars.
No excuses — start saving change in the jar.
The Christmas Jar concept certainly didn’t start with Saratoga Abundant Life Church. Jason F. Wright’s 2005 novel, a New York Times bestseller, sparked the nationwide phenomenon. The book has since inspired thousands to collect and give away jars of change to strangers or anonymously to someone in need whom they know.
While my husband uses cash regularly and habitually empties the pockets of his work pants at day’s end, I tend to use my debit card, even when I swing through Stewart’s for a gallon of milk. So I had to be deliberate about gathering change.
The jar was a bit over 3/4 filled a few days before Christmas week, when my 8-year-old daughter took her piggy bank from her dresser and pulled the plug from its pink underside to dump her savings into the jar. There, full.
I put the jar in the backseat of the car, ready for whomever, wherever. I would wait for God to put someone in my path.
I guess I wasn’t expecting someone to be so literally in my path. But driving to work Monday -- frankly a bit spaced out and singing along to the radio — I signaled to turn onto Phila Street off of Broadway in Saratoga Springs, my usual route to The Saratogian parking lot. I didn’t see him starting to cross the street until I got around the nose of the Fed Ex truck partially blocking the entrance.
He was leaning on a shopping cart filled with bags bearing the names of different retail stores. We made eye contact, and he politely waved for me to go. I was also waving him. It was a goofy little exchange that made me laugh. And I went ahead, glancing in the rearview mirror as he crossed behind me.
When I got to the end of the street, it was as though God slapped me in the back of the head. “There’s your person.”
I wrestled with the urging all the way to my parking lot. I mean, I really should get into the office and get to work, right?
Something in my heart overrided those thoughts, though, and I parked, grabbed the jar from the backseat, tossed it in my handbag (heavy!) and booked up Caroline Street to Broadway. No sign of him as I looked up and down Broadway. “If I see him again, it’s meant for him,” I thought, and walked north a block.
In the distance, I saw him crossing Division Street. I could practically hear my heart beating in my ears as I gained on him. Just as I approached him from behind, he paused to rest.
“Hello, how are you?” I asked, out of breath.
“Good, how are you?” he responded.
“It’s warming up, though,” he said, looking up at the sunny, blue sky.
“I have something for you,” I said, digging in my bag for the jar. “My family has been saving this, and I just know it was meant for you.”
I handed it to him. “God loves you.”
“God loves me, huh?” he said, smiling. “Well, I will graciously accept this.”
With care, he placed it atop his belongings in the cart.
“Merry Christmas,” I said as I started back toward Broadway, choking back tears as I turned from him.
Who knew saving change in a jar could have such an impact? But it was a blessing, to that man and to my family.