HENRY COUNTY, Ga. - A local mother got the shock of a lifetime when she came home to an unexpected Christmas present in her driveway.
A total stranger had gifted the mother and her two kids something they desperately needed – a new car.
For single mother Cristy Ethridge, traveling anywhere in her beat-up, old car hasn’t been easy.
She had owned the 1996 Ford Explorer for 18 years, and said she had problems with the car for most of that time.
Every fluid leaked, the car overheated and the transmission was shot, Ethridge said.
“Everything was leaking in my garage. We’re always changing out cardboard boxes under the car to catch the oils,” said Ethridge.
For all intents and purposes, the car was a money pit, using money she didn’t have.
The single mother of two teenagers said she lost her job last year. She was unemployed for a year before becoming an accounts manager at a pest control company in August.
The family has not been on a vacation in more than 11 years, Ethridge said, because her car couldn’t make it out of Henry County.
“My son plays travel baseball and I can’t travel," she said. "I’ve never been to his World Series game in Florida because I was never able to drive a car."
That all changed last week, thanks to the kindness of a total stranger.
On Dec. 19, Ethridge’s 15-year-old daughter Avery was home from school and noticed a white SUV in their driveway. When her brother Evan got home, he noticed a red bow on the hood.
The teens called their mom at work to tell her about the car.
“I told them to go check it out. Inside, they found a note that said “Merry Christmas Cristy” and there were the keys and a title,” Ethridge said.
The one thing that was missing was a name. The note was not signed and there was no indication as to who may have left the 2006 Toyota Sequoia in her driveway.
“The person who did it went through great lengths to be hidden,” Ethridge said. “I think at one point their name was on the title, but it had been taken off.”
Ethridge says at first she could not believe it, but the longer it sat there, the more it started to sink in.
“The Scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 6: 1-4 that says when you do good deeds for people you’re supposed to do them in secrecy,” Ethridge said.
After the shock settled down, Ethridge’s next step was to call the Henry County tag office to get information, since it had been nearly two decades since she’d had a new car.
When the employee on the other line started asking questions, she decided to share the whole story.
“I shared it with her and then she put me on her speaker phone and asked me to share it with the whole office,” Ethridge said.
Ethridge says she’s still amazed and overwhelmed by the random act of kindness.
“It’s a true blessing,” said Ethridge, who credits her faith in God for helping her through the hardest of times. “It means so much more than my words can ever even express. I’m a very faithful person. I had lost my job and I was out of work for a year, but I knew that I’d be taken care of. I know that God has a plan for me. I know that everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that.”
Ethridge says the life-changing gift is living proof of a lesson she has taught her children their entire lives – kindness works, so pass it on.
“I’ve always taught my children to be kind to others and we do a lot of things for others,” she said. “I just tell them what we put out in the world always comes back to us, and this is really a true testament to that."
When asked if she wants to know who gave her the gift that’s changed her life, Ethridge said, “Honestly, I am content with never knowing. My intuition tells me that this person knows me well enough to know what an impact this has had on my family and how truly grateful we are, beyond words. If I knew, I would probably worry myself sick trying to figure out how I could ever repay them.”