Looking for a way to make Christmas more meaningful?
You might consider trying out what author Jason Wright suggests in his book, Christmas Jars. It's pretty simple. Just contribute all your loose change over time to a jar and surprise someone with it as a gift for Christmas.
Wright joined Glenn on radio Friday to share what prompted him to write the book and what has happened in the decade since he wrote it. Based on anecdotes that have come in, he calculated somewhere between $8 and $10 million has been given away in change.
"And I frankly think that that could be a conservative number," Wright said.
He added, "It's not just something you do during the holidays. It's something you do all year long."
Listen to the segment or read the transcript below.
Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors.
GLENN: Jason Wright wrote a book years ago that has really, truly changed so many people's traditions in families. It is called The Christmas Jars. And Jason is joining us now.
Hey, Jason, how are you, sir?
JASON: I am so well. How are you, my friend?
GLENN: I'm very good. So you wrote this book. And I want you to explain it for anyone who hasn't read this book because I think that this is a tradition that, A, you should read to your family and a tradition that you can so easily do -- I know so many people that do this now, and it really has changed their holiday. So explain the book.
JASON: Yes, it's remarkable, Glenn. I have you to thank for so much of this.
I found myself 11 years ago, the most selfish person I knew. I sat down with my wife, she agreed. We came up with this idea of a Christmas jar. We put our change in a little purple jar on the counter, and we would fill it up and we'd give it away at Christmastime. And we didn't even know who would get it or how that first delivery would go. We just knew that every day, as we dropped our change in that jar, no matter the temperature outside or the date on the calendar, we would think about the needs of someone else and the real meaning of Christmas and the life of the savior and that daily sacrifice for us. And we gave that first jar away. And it really, truly changed our lives.
And the next year, I decided to write this little book. The publisher fired it off to some people, kind of on a whim to see if anyone would talk about it. And this guy named Glenn Beck who had a pretty big radio show said, "You know what, I'm going to take this thing home and read it over the weekend." And as I recall, you came back Monday morning and just gushed and gushed, and it launched a career.
GLENN: Yeah. I don't know if that is entirely true. But it did really well. New York Times best-seller. So tell me the actual story for anybody who doesn't know.
JASON: So the story is about a fictional story, of course. It's sparked by our experience as a family, but it's not based on our experience. But it's about a young reporter who stumbled upon this tradition of the Christmas jar in her small little town and decides she wants to uncover who gave the first jar, where did it come from. And it turns out that the origin is really personal for her. And it goes back to a little baby being abandoned by a single mom in a greasy chicken diner -- chicken and biscuits diner and being adopted and raised by a single mom. It all comes full circle at the end of the book. And you discover where the movement began, why it began, and how one little jar changed not just one family's lives, but many, many lives around the country.
GLENN: So this is a book now that has been out for, how many years? Ten years?
JASON: This is the ten-year anniversary.
GLENN: That's unbelievable. I got at it the first year, Jason?
JASON: You did. And that part of the story is true. I remember you telling me that you took it home over the weekend because it was the smallest little advanced copy that anyone had sent you. And you felt you could plow through it over the weekend.
GLENN: I do remember that. I get books sent to me all the time. And I got piles of them next to my bed. And I read what I can. Very few really interest me. Especially fiction. And I saw this big pile and this really teeny book. And I thought, "Man, I can read that in the bathroom." And I read it over the weekend and I came in. And now I hear it's sold a million copies.
JASON: Yeah, it crossed about a million copies over ten years. And it's just -- it's hard to believe. It's now become about more than the book. You know, I would love for your listeners that haven't discovered the book yet to go out and read it. But it's not about the book anymore. It's about a movement. It's about millions and millions of dollars being given away in spare change around the country.
GLENN: How are you estimating -- I've heard the estimate of $8 million and change has been given away?
JASON: Yeah, it's based on the anecdotes that have come in and the dollar amount. We get about $220, the average amount, per jar is what we've heard the decade. So we did a little math based on the number of books sold, the number of people that actually don't just stick the book on a shelf but decide to pass the book on with the jar, we come up with a figure somewhere between eight and $10 million and change. And I frankly think that that could be a conservative number.
PAT: So, Jason, how does it exactly work? You just -- you put a jar out, right? And then every time you get spare change. Put it in that charge.
GLENN: Can I ask you a question, does it hurt anyone anymore? Because I rarely have change in my pockets because I use debit cards everywhere I go.
JASON: Absolutely. That's a great point. And, you know, the best thing to do is just to cheat a little bit. It's not just something you do during the holidays. It's something you do all year long. So maybe change doesn't go in the jar every day or even every week. It does in my household.
But from time to time, when I'm thinking about it and I'm in 7-Eleven or the grocery store or the Post Office, you know, I get a couple dollars back in change intentionally and it goes home, it goes in the jar. You know, the kids are digging through couch cushions and the washer and dryer and the cup holders in the car. You can still find plenty of change. And, you know, if it's $10 you give away, if it's 50 bucks you give away, if it's $100, to the right family at the right time, it can be a significant blessing in their lives.
PAT: Yeah, and after you've accumulated that money in the jar during the course of the year, you choose someone to give it to. How do you make that determination? Because you've been doing this for a long time now. So what kind of system do you have to decide who gets the money?
JASON: Well, you know, I would encourage people -- there's a new e-book out this year. It's called Christmas Jars Journey. That's exactly the true story of our -- the Wright family's very first jar. And I go into detail about how we came up with this, sitting around the kitchen table. I mean, it's like an old movie. We took a sheet of paper. We made a list of six or eight people that we thought could benefit from it, neighbors, friends from church, teachers, et cetera. We selected a young man that was getting ready to leave the country to Mexico to do some volunteer church work. And it was at the family -- you know, they did okay. But the money would be a blessing. It was about $80 that first year in our jar because it was only a couple of months.
And then we set out in the minivan. And, again, I encourage people to check out Christmas Jars Journey for the kind of behind scenes of this. Because this moment, this night in 2004, it changed our lives. It changed the whole trajectory, not just of our family, but of me personally to really understand that Christmas is not a 24-hour holiday. You don't flip on and off a switch, think about the Savior, and then put him away until the next year. It becomes a part of you all year long. And the Christmas Jar helps that in a really small away.
GLENN: I just got an email, a text saying that I'm in this book several times.
JASON: You are. Several times. And I just can't overstate, Glenn, that you having me on your show back then, radio and TV, talking about the book, you read -- you know, it's been a long time. You've interviewed a million guests since then, but you read most of that first chapter on the air. And it just gave life to this book. We were struggling to really find any traction and to get anybody to talk -- in fact, I had a hard time getting the darn thing published. I had publishers and agents both tell me. This thing will never, ever end up in a bookstore ever. I had one agent tell me -- this is in the e-book, I had one agent tell me in a rejection letter: I like the idea, I just wish someone else had written it.
GLENN: Holy cow.
JASON: I have that on my desk. I look at it almost every day. And then Glenn Beck comes along and gives it a breath of life and a career was born.
GLENN: Wow, that's amazing. Well, I'm happy for you, Jason. You know how I feel about you and what a great writer -- I mean, we were just talking about you just the other day in and around the office about what a great writer you are and a great storyteller you are. I mean, I've enjoyed many of your books. The -- what was the Charles one? Finding Charles?
JASON: Recovering Charles. Based down in New Orleans, yeah.
GLENN: That was a great one. And there was another one that you wrote --
STU: It was "50 Shades of Gray" you're thinking of.
JASON: No, I wrote The Wednesday Letters, which is one that you and I talked about. That's the one where I gave out my cellphone number, and I almost shut down AT&T with phonecalls over about three days. That was wonderful.
GLENN: Yeah, The Wednesday's Letters was another one. And there -- I hate to say it this way, but people understand, almost Nicholas Sparks in a way.
JASON: Yeah, Nicholas Sparks with a little more touch of faith because faith is so very important to me. I would give everything I'm doing up for my faith.
PAT: And without the cheese. You know.
JASON: Yeah. Yeah.
GLENN: There's nobody standing out in a rainstorm making out.
GLENN: And it's not just a coincidence, it's a God thing in Jason's books.
JASON: Amen. God is at the center of everything. So true.
GLENN: Yeah, that's great. Thank you so much, Jason. I appreciate it. You can buy The Christmas Jars Journey: The Behind the Scenes True Story of the Very First Christmas Jar. It's an e-book available from Amazon.com. And while you're there, if you've not read the Christmas Jars, read the Christmas Jars. Buy it. You'll so enjoy it. It's, what, 200 pages. Something like that. It really is -- it's 100 pages. It's an easy one-night read and one that your whole family will enjoy and could actually change the way your family does Christmas. It's really, truly tremendous. Jason Wright is the author's name. Christmas jars and the Christmas jars reunion and journey. Find it at Amazon. Thanks, Jason, I appreciate it. God bless.
JASON: Thank you, sir.