To Terry, Jenny, Arlie, and the High School Sophomore

Here’s to Terry, Jennifer, Arlie, the girl behind the counter at the electronics store, and the high school sophomore whose name I forgot to ask. You guys are awesome.

The other night, I “stole” Mark’s station wagon from him to do a quick grocery run while he’d stopped home for supper on a long shift at work. Luke had the van for his job, and our cupboards were more bare than Mother Hubbard’s.

John-John was with me, and we were just about to load our booty into the back of the wagon when the key jammed in the hatch lock. Both of us tried to work it loose, but to no avail. It was stuck right between lock and unlock. As we stood there in the chilly March air, trying to keep our grocery cart out of the way of the other cars in the parking lot, a guy and his girlfriend walked past. He stopped, turned around, and asked me if I needed help.

“I’m a car mechanic,” he said. “Honest. I’m not trying to pull anything. I work on cars for a living. Can I help you?”

“You’d better believe I could use help,” I said. “Thanks so much!”

He tried every trick he knew, but couldn’t budge the key. There were no tools in the wagon, and the mechanic hadn’t any in his car.

“If I only had a screw driver and some pliers, I think I could get it,” he lamented.

“Lemme go see what I can come up with,” I said.

I ran into the electronics store. The girl behind the counter was fairly surprised at my unusual request, but nevertheless she pulled a screw driver from a bin behind the counter. “No screw driver, though. Sorry.”

I ran back to the wagon, gave the screwdriver to our rescuer, crossed my fingers and started a round of “I Trust Your Mights”, the prayer of confidence in Mary’s intercession I’d learned as a child. This had always worked for past difficulties, it had to work now. Nope.

“If only I had a needle nose pliers and some WD40,” the mechanic grumbled.

I ran into the grocery store and asked for the manager. I explained our predicament to him. He, in turn ran to a couple different departments searching for a needle noses pliers. In the mean time, a young man – a sophomore from a nearby high school – was waiting in line at the courtesy counter and overheard our conversation. He offered to let us use his all-purpose tool.

“That’d be great!” I exclaimed. “It’s the white station wagon in the middle row and down a few cars from the door.” Then out he went.

I waited a few minutes for the manager, Arlie, to come back. I thought I’d better go check on my mechanic friend, whose name I discovered was Terry. His girlfriend’s name was Jenny. But this time, Terry had the entire back hatch dismantled, the lock mechanism removed, and he was working feverishly to get the key to release. No dice.

“Any chance for that WD40?” he asked hopefully.

I ran back into the grocery store and found Arlie again. “Oh, I didn’t know where you’d gone. I pulled a can from the shelf and left it at the courtesy counter for you.”

“Oh, you are a peach!” I called behind me as I headed out the door.

By this time, Mark had arrived. He’d called Luke to come home and taxi him to the grocery store parking lot with the extra key. Luke dropped him off and went back to work.

“I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry I had to take everything apart!” Terry apologized to Mark. “It’ll all go back together, though, so don’t worry. I’ve got all the parts and can show you how to do it.”

I handed Terry the WD40. He doused the entire mechanism with it, but it still would not loosen.

“That’s it,” Terry said regretfully. “I’ve done all I could. You’re gonna have to go to the dealer and get a new mechanism. If you want, you can come by my shop once you get one and I’ll put it in for you for free. Sorry, buddy. I tried.”

“No need to be sorry,” Mark assured him. “I’m happy you did what you did. Thank you.”

Terry handed the all-purpose tool back to the high school sophomore and reached out to shake hands with us, but they were full of WD40.

“Hang on,” I chuckled. “I’m getting good at this.” I ran back to the grocery store, tore into the women’s restroom, grabbed a stack of paper towels, and ran back to the car.

“Here ya go!” I said triumphantly.

Terry wiped his hands. He and Jenny gave each of us a warm handshake and off they went.

“Don’t forget to come to my shop with that part,” he called behind him. “I’ll fix it right up for you.”

Mark, John, and I piled the groceries into the van and drove home. I reflected on this experience while making supper. I think this is the first time every that the “I Trust Your Mights” didn’t work. Pray as I did, that key never budged. Now Mark will have to take his car in for repairs. Why didn’t the Blessed Mother answer my plea this time?

I thought a little more. Perhaps she was trying to show me something else. Perhaps she was trying to show me that things don’t have to work out my way for me to benefit from them. Perhaps she wanted me to see that things don’t always have to get “fixed”. Perhaps experiencing the way Christ works through fellow human beings is all the benefit I needed.

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