The Giving Jar

Christmas morning came this year with something a little different.

The presents were under the tree–that was the same as always. And it wasn’t that anyone woke up too early or was too impatient to go downstairs to see what they received.

Although hundreds of thousands of people in our province were without power following an ice storm, the Christmas lights were left on for Santa.

No one stopped believing in the supernatural being known as Santa.

What was different was my response to the questions I loathe at Christmastime: what did you get for Christmas and what did Santa bring you. Fear not; I am not going to rage about consumerism and materialism at this time of year. Those battles were lost long ago. I am not going to be like Linus and remind us of what the Gospel says about why we celebrate Christmas. I do love that part of the video, though.

Nope, I just wanted to find a way to communicate to the twins why I think giving does so much good for the world. They already make presents for Christmas, birthdays and Father’s Day. They understand that giving makes another person happy. How to show that giving changes the world and gives us something bigger in return?

Enter the giving jar.


My profession is fundraising, but that doesn’t mean I have some magic formula to make people give. It is already inside of each and every one of us. There is a good amount of research telling us that people feel good when they give. From my little vantage point, my work is all about creating that moment when someone believes giving can make a difference in the world.

On Christmas eve, I was digging around in the cupboards and came across an empty peanut butter jar. If you have parents who lived through any kind of privation–in my case, my parents lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War–I can bet that there are empty jars waiting for a use.

The jar was my lightbulb moment.

On Christmas morning, before we made our way downstairs, I mentioned that we were going to start a new tradition. Rachel was excited to find out what it was, but I told her it had to wait until just before we checked our stockings and opened presents.

Once downstairs, I put the empty peanut butter jar on the coffee table and introduced the “Giving Jar.”  Rachel piped right away that it was an empty jar and wanted to know if we had to fill it up first. It was a great guess and I told the kids that this year before any one gets a present, we have to put a coin in. For the next year,  every weekend the twins are with me, they will each put a twoonie (that’s a two dollar Canadian coin for the uninitiated) in the Giving Jar. Next year right before Christmas, they will pick where the money will be donated and it will start all over again on December 25th 2014.

For weeks, I had been telling the kids that I thought it was more important that I liked giving more than receiving. The Giving Jar gave me a way to show how to do that.

Both kids put their coin in the jar. I wasn’t ready for how willing they were. I imagined having to explain it a lot more and having plenty of time to take a picture. I think having to take the coins out a few times to get the picture may have been the most challenging part.

I see my kids being generous in so many ways to so many people, especially to each other. This is just another example of how much they want to share.

Rachel immediately started thinking about who to give the money to. I suggested we wait to make that decision this time next year, but let’s keep our eyes and ears open to who needs our support.

This isn’t a terribly novel idea. I am pretty sure I must have come across this idea somewhere and forgotten where it came from. Regardless of that, the perfect moment arrived to show my kids the magic of giving and that empty peanut butter jar was the spark.


4 thoughts on “The Giving Jar

    • I agree. It is important to start them young. They are already so generous and kind. This is just one more way we can share. My daughter wants to add twoonies every day. It’s quite amazing to watch.


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