This grandmother received the surprise of a lifetime.

No matter how much we may plan for the future, we never really know what life is going to throw at us. Sometimes, we end up far from where we thought we’d be, and we do the best we can to get by. That’s the situation a 70-year-old grandmother named Meri found herself in after she became the main caregiver to her two grandchildren.

When Meri and her family stumbled upon hard times, however, the kindness of a stranger lifted her right back up.

An Exemplary Human

elderly woman wearing a pink sweater with a cat image on it

Meri is one of those people that just wants to do right by others. According to East Idaho News, she has spent countless hours volunteering and helping others in her community, particularly the youth.

Over the years, she has received awards for community service and volunteerism, including being named Idaho Falls Citizen of the Year and one of the Eight Who Make a Difference. She has also won the JC Penney Golden Rule award and been named Grand Marshall of the 4th of July parade.

At home, the 70-year-old widow is also the primary caregiver to her seven and 13-year-old granddaughters due to difficult family circumstances. Meri loves her grandkids and wants to provide for them, but it isn’t always easy since Meri is retired and lives on a fixed income.

A Rough Winter

Things got especially rough one year when the timing chain on Meri’s car went. It ruined the engine, and as a result, the car was toast. The grandmother had no way to fix it, and her income didn’t allow her to buy another one, which put the family in a tough spot.

No car meant Meri had to either borrow one or walk everywhere with the girls: the store, school, and their counseling appointments. At one point, her youngest granddaughter was ill, and Meri walked to the store at 11 p.m. to get her some supplies.

To make things worse, Meri had relied on her car to bring in extra income: when she needed to make ends meet, she put in hours as a DoorDash driver. Without her car, that revenue source disappeared.

A Kind Stranger

When a stranger heard about Meri’s plight, they decided to anonymously help. They contacted East Idaho News and asked for their help in gifting Meri a new car for her family. Through the outlet’s Secret Santa program, they put a plan in place.

In a video shared on the outlet’s site, host Nate Eaton knocked on Meri’s door.

Immediately, Meri began tearing up, wondering why the familiar host was there. “There’s nothing special about me,” she said, adding that she wished the girls were there for the big moment.

“You know, it was not what my retirement was supposed to look like, but sometimes things need to get broken before they can get fixed,” she explained as Eaton handed her a box with a check in it. Then, Eaton made the big reveal: Meri was the owner of a new Honda CR-V.

“Oh my gosh you guys,” Meri said, fighting back tears and covering her face. “My gosh, you’re really amazing. You don’t know how ecstatic my girls are going to be… you’re totally incredible. Thank you so much. I don’t even know what to say.”

We’re All Just Doing Our Best

As Meri’s story proves, sometimes our lives don’t work out exactly the way we thought they would, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Sometimes, just by pushing through and being the best people we can be no matter what life throws at us, we can inspire others on their journeys, too.

Sometimes, it’s also just nice to be seen. That’s why a stranger gifting Meri a car is so powerful: someone saw her and her struggles and did what they could to help. It’s a good takeaway for our own lives and a reminder that sometimes helping people feel seen is a strong motivator for them (and us) to keep going.

We may not all be able to gift cars, but kind words are free. Offering small financial support, used items, some baked treats, or even just an ear to someone going through a hard time can be a big game changer.

At the end of the day, we’re all just doing our best. And by doing our best together, we can help create the sense of community that we all need deep down.