The scariest Christmas lesson

One of my most vivid holiday memories was 27 years ago when we lived on Highway 395 in Gardnerville when there were no stop signs or traffic lights. When I close my eyes to recall this night, I can feel my heart in my throat and see my two oldest children, Jeff Begovich then 11 years old, and Kari, then 9 years old, running for their lives with a man yelling and chasing them late in the black of night.

Let me back up. I was reinforcing the lesson for my five children that it is better to give than to receive and to experience it personally. The family across the street was having a hard time this holiday season, as the father had lost his job. We took this opportunity to talk about how these things do happen and everyone is only one or two unfortunate happenings away from it. We shopped for each one of these neighbors, wrapping each gift with love and care. We signed the tags "with love from Jesus."

After shopping, wrapping and preparing our strategy for delivery, my children decided they would wait until Christmas Eve, and go late at night and sneak up on the porch and leave the gifts. The younger children, Merry, Chris and Todd, stayed up way past their bedtime to watch with me out the front window. We could see well, as their home was directly across the street.

Jeff and Kari each had a big bag filled with gifts and goodies. They wore dark clothing, and crouched as they silently crept up the driveway and onto the front porch. Jeff carefully deposited his bag on the steps and stepped aside for Kari to place hers on the porch. Well, the neighbor man must have seen Jeff's shadow, as he came to the door and scared the wits out of the kids!

"What do you think you're doin'?" he bellowed. The other kids and I watched in utter horror, unable to scream. Jeff took off with a jump start, leaving Kari to turn and run for her life. All we could see was Jeff's backside disappearing in the dark and Kari's pigtails straight up in the air with the man's huge hand reaching for them as he leaped off the porch at her.

I yelled, "God, please don't let my child get hurt!" Well, God heard my fearful shout, and the man stopped suddenly. A few minutes later my children slipped in the back door, wide-eyed and totally out of breath. When we realized everything was all right, we all laughed so hard we rolled on the floor, tears streaming down our faces.

So, I know they all learned a valuable lesson on that Christmas Eve of 1976, because to this day, they are willing to lend a hand when they see it is needed. I am so proud of the adults they have become. It is in spite of me, not because of me, and by God's grace they are such compassionate people. Not one of them would ever pass up an opportunity to help.

I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and tell you that Christmas is the very best time of year to reinforce your values. Happy Birthday, Jesus, and thank you, We will never forget this lesson.

Claudia Varin is a resident of Minden.


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