When You Break a Jar of Hope

When you break a jar of hope it may seem like a rather small thing.  It may seem like no big deal, just a jar with words inside.  But when you break a jar of hope, you break a piece of my heart.

I started making “Jars of Hope” in 2011 when I worked for a nonprofit.  We would give them to cancer patients receiving treatment to help inspire them through their very difficult journeys.  And I thought that it was the perfect idea to expand to patients and caregivers wherever they may be – for we all need inspiration, especially on the hard days.


It’s a simple idea – take a jar, decorate it, and fill it with inspirational quotes.  Give it to someone so they can open it each day for a bit of hope or share the messages inside with others.  There are no rules as to how to decorate them – paper, sticker, string, markers and whatever craft supplies you might have and of course a lot of love.

I don’t sell them and never will.  Like Regina’s Walking Gallery jackets – that’s not the point.  The point is to just give them, spread happiness, make a difference in someone’s live.  Maybe even start a conversation with someone. I take them to conferences when I am invited (when traveling the TSA people scrutinize why I carry glass jars with me but I don’t mind).  If I have a few extra dollars to spare, I try to send them to people who mean a lot to me in the epatient community.  I send some to my mom so she can give them to neighbors and friends. And I give them to providers whose care have gotten me through so much.

These jars mean a lot to me.  I don’t have a lot of money to buy presents, so these are my gifts.  Sometimes I can’t pay for healthcare so this is my payment to those who will treat me anyway.  A lot of the time, as of late, I’m too sick to really do anything productive, but this small craft project is something I can do and helps my own health.  I always love explaining them to recipients and seeing them pull out that first quote.  It brings me immense joy.  These jars are a sort of medicine for me personally.

Thus when a jar is broken in the mail on it’s way to Canada to a dear friend who is a great caregiver, my heart is beyond broken.  The jars have no monetary value and cannot be replaced so no refund on shipping costs will really suffice.  And though it seems insignificant, the impact, at least to me is a bit overwhelming.  Because not only is the happiness of giving lost (which I desperately need most days when fighting my illnesses) but the happiness I know that could have been when someone opened the package to find something just for them is also lost.

This world is filled with too much sadness and pain already.  I try in my small way to counter this with each jar I make.  The messages in the jar may provide hope to others but the hope in the jar for me is that it will change the world just a little bit.  And maybe in these tiny changes amassed over time, changes that may have a little ripple effect, the world may find won’t be so dark.

When you lose a jar of hope, I shed a tear.

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5 Responses to When You Break a Jar of Hope

  1. Ally says:

    Minus the whole jar-getting-lost-in-the-mail incident, this is so cool. I’m sure your friends and healthcare providers truly love receiving those jars, and I get what you mean by how the process helps your own health. I’m a big believer in giving the little gifts to doctors, strangers, friends from time to time. That’s why we’re here on earth, in my opinion; a little pick-me-up encased in a glass jar is a whole lot of awesomeness that says “I care” when sometimes it seems like the rest of the world doesn’t. I hope that if the MIA jar of hope does not get to its original intended destination, it at least winds up on the doorstep of someone else who could use a morale boost.

  2. Dee Sparacio says:

    What a wonderful, caring way to support others. I hope that the jar finds its way to the right person and if not brings cheer to whomever find is.

  3. Erin, I still treasure my own jar of hope that you gave me over lunch at Stanford while we were attending Medicine X in 2012. Such a simple yet profoundly generous gift. Thank you again for it!

    I hope your lost jar turns up (hey! it’s Canada Post, right?) and until then, please turn to one of your own jars to help you while waiting…

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