November 12, 2021

The story of a young mother, her son, a mechanic and the power of God’s grace

Bill Greenwald’s years as an auto mechanic have fine-tuned his connection with God. (Submitted photo)

Bill Greenwald’s years as an auto mechanic have fine-tuned his connection with God. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion invited our readers to share the special moments in their lives—or the one thing—that has brought them closer to God. Here are some of their stories.)

Second of three parts

By John Shaughnessy

In the days leading up to that Thanksgiving, Bill Greenwald was already more than busy as a mechanic when he learned about the young mother who desperately needed her old car fixed—so she could drive to Minnesota to start a new job as a hospital nurse the day after the holiday.

Greenwald kept telling himself he didn’t have time to help her, that he had already promised too many other people that he would have their cars ready before the weekend.

But the thought of the young mother and her 10-year-old son kept tugging at him, even making him think that God had led them to his shop.

“Of course, God had decided that I was the person that was going to help this young lady and her son,” recalls Greenwald, a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. “Believe me, I tried everything to avoid taking on another job. Finally, I said ‘OK, God, I give up!’ ”

He soon learned how much work the car needed when the woman and her son showed up at the shop as darkness set in on the day before Thanksgiving.

“We had to push the old Datsun into my garage because the reverse gear wasn’t working,” Greenwald says. “I could see the headlights were dimming, which meant there was a problem with the battery or alternator. I could see brake fluid on the tire rims which means brake problems. Also, the wiper blades were shot.

“The young lady said she had borrowed fifty bucks from a friend to hopefully get her car fixed. Her son was angry and sad because he had to give up his friends and move to a new school in Minnesota. I took the fifty bucks and told her I will see what I can do.”

Greenwald worked through the evening and the night, fixing the brakes, adding a new diode to the alternator, getting the battery charged and putting on some new wiper blades.

“Of course, it cost me about $150 in parts, but the car was fixed except for the reverse gear not working,” he says. “The young lady showed up the next day and was beaming that her car was actually fixed. She asked me how much it cost to fix the car, and I gave her the receipts and my address and told her she could send me something when she got her first check.”

While the young woman was grateful and ready for the trip to Minnesota, Greenwald noticed that her son was still upset about having to make the move.

Once again, Greenwald believed God was calling him to make a difference.

“Now this was just about the time the Rubik’s Cube came out, and all of the kids had one, including her son. My younger daughter had picked the Rubik’s Cube as her science project at school and asked me to help her make a one-page solution sheet. No doubt another task God had picked for me to accomplish as part of this story.

“My daughter and I found three solution books in the bookstore and purchased them. We picked the Nourse System to use to make the solution sheet. I happened to have my copy of the sheet in my pocket, so I gave that to her son and his eyes seem to brighten up a little. So off they went with their old Datsun just as the snow started to fall. I said to myself, ‘God, I think they are definitely going to need your help to make it to Minnesota.’ ”

As the snow continued through that Thanksgiving weekend, Greenwald kept track of the news and weather reports of the storm—and how trucks and cars were stranded or ended up in ditches along the route to Minnesota.

“I just couldn’t get the image of the young lady and her son stranded on the side of the road out of my head. I pretty much figured that would be the last time I would hear from them. But I got a letter in the mail about a month later with a check from the young lady.”

In the letter, the young woman wrote, “You won’t believe this, there were cars and trucks stranded and stuck all along the way, but we made it no problem. And my son was a big hit in his new school because of the Rubik’s Cube solution sheet you gave him.”

Greenwald remembers that he cried when he read her letter. He says he still tears up whenever he tells the story of how God led him to be there for the young mother and her son.

“I read somewhere that ‘Grace is the power that God willingly gives us to help us do what we could never do on our own.’

“I truly believe God uses us to help others. Most of the time God accepts our poor excuse of being too busy to help someone in trouble, but on rare occasions God will insist that we use the talents that he has given us to help someone in need. He refuses to let us off the hook no matter how hard we try to get out of it.” †

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