A few years ago, as I began my journey to self-sufficiency, I worked to save what few dollars I made selling the paper and also some from other part-time work and I set out to change my life by buying an automobile.

I was able to purchase a 25-year-old Toyota Camry (I think it was like a ’92), and the Camry served me well. For months I drove the Camry, until I started to experience a rash of repairs being needed. I took it from mechanic to mechanic to find a way of putting any Band-Aids, glue or duct tape on the car that I could to keep it running. I was told that it was simply a 25-year-old car and the frame was starting to wear out.

Nevertheless, I replaced the struts, the alternator, and other various things — one after another. It limped along for a while. Then I started to have problems with the car overheating. Several times the car had broken down on me and I had to leave it on the side of the road and come back and get it after it cooled off. Once, it even overheated and broke down on me on 395 South of Lorton during rush hour! It took me almost 4 hours to get the car back to my Oxford House by driving five or 10 minutes until it overheated, pulling over to put water in, letting it cool down and repeating the process.

As I started to experience even more difficulties with the car, I shared it with one of my supporters at the Del Ray Farmers Market where I distribute my newspaper. She suggested that I take it to her mechanic. But I could not afford a real mechanic. The mechanics I had been using up until that point are what we call in the city “shade-tree mechanics,” y’know, those guys that hang out at the AutoZone or Advanced Auto and work on people’s cars in the parking lot.

However, whatever was going on with my car was too complex for them to handle. So, at my supporter’s suggestion, I took my Camry into a repair shop in Alexandria where she took her car, so that I could at least see if it was worth fixing or if I should get rid of it. The next morning I got a call from the repair shop saying they were finished looking it over. When I arrived and told the person who I was, they returned with the keys and told me that everything was fixed!

I said, “Wait a minute, I can’t afford all of those repairs!” I almost blew a gasket when the guy told me, “Don’t worry about it, it’s all been paid for.” When I asked him by whom, he refused to give me the person’s name. He only told me that it was someone who knew me and my struggle from the Del Ray Farmers Market, and they would not want their name to be known. I respect this person’s privacy. But I wanted to say, by sharing this story, that I am still incredibly thankful to this day! You know who you are.