Katherine Kalthoff plans to make amends for a youthful transgression by replacing a plastic baby Jesus stolen from the Nativity scene of a home in Elk Grove.
The Sacramento woman swiped a ceramic baby Jesus off of a Fair Oaks lawn when she was a 19-year-old student visiting during a holiday break more than 30 years ago.
She has felt guilty ever since.
So, in six to 12 shipping days, she expects to take delivery on a baby Jesus for the Jennings family, who had their baby Jesus figurine stolen early in the morning on New Year’s Day. The 2-foot-long Christ child should go perfectly with the 3-foot-tall Mary and Joseph figurines that stood in the stable in the Jennings’ yard, Kalthoff said.
“I just honestly, I feel blessed,” said John Jennings, 31, after speaking to Kalthoff. “After everything that happened, I told my wife I was done decorating, but after seeing the true meaning of the holiday of Christmas I was blown away.”
Kalthoff, 51, found an online site that sells a lot of the figurines of the Christ child. “Apparently, the baby Jesus gets stolen a lot,” she said.
She attributes her misdeed as a teenager to feeling disconnected from her Catholic religion after her parents’ divorce. “I kept it a secret for a long time because I was ashamed of what I’d done,” she said.
Kalthoff felt compelled to make up for her theft after she found herself unable to get into the holiday spirit a few years back. That’s when she bought the first baby Jesus for a family who had theirs stolen. The Jennings’ Jesus is the second purchase.
Despite the good deeds, Kathoff said her penance is not complete. She intends to continue to replace baby Jesus figurines far into the future. “It’s a lifelong endeavor,” she said.
The gift may have came at just the right time for the Jennings family. They have had their car vandalized, tires slashed and all 16 lug nuts on their car loosened in recent years. The theft of a lighted deer a month ago compelled the family to take down their inflatable Christmas decorations. Then, on New Year’s Day, someone sneaked up to the Nativity scene and stole Jesus.
That act was the final straw for Jennings. He packed up all signs of Christmas cheer and vowed never to put up more than a string of lights in future years – until he spoke to Kalthoff on Monday.
Now he says his decorations, complete with the message “Merry Christmas” projected across his house and accompanied by holiday music, will return next year.
Kalthoff teared up after talking to Jennings on the phone Monday. She said he’s had a bad year.
“It’s an honor to be able to be that person for him, to let him know that people really do care,” she said. “We talked for quite awhile on the phone. I think his luck is really going to change.”