A Red Rust-Bucket and the Holy Family

“Are you sure?”

            “Yes,” I replied.

“No, I mean, are you really sure you want to do this?” 

            “Yes,” I replied again, starting to smile.

“Thank you!” She said with a slight downward glance and yet with a smile. And with that she reached out and took the envelope from my hand, and together we walked out of my house.

 You would have thought that I had handed her an envelope that was stuffed with cash. I hadn’t. All I had done was sign over to her my old, red, rust-bucket of a car. 

Mazda similar to mine, in much better condition

For a few weeks, I had been trying find a buyer for my old car. It wasn’t worth very much given its age, mileage, and condition. I had nearly given up hope and was ready to send it the junk yard.

 Finally, there was some hope through our local department of social services.  They were looking for a used car for one of their clients. Both I and the director of social services tried to get in touch with the client to no avail. After about two weeks we learned that this client would not be needing the car. The search continued. 

And so, she found another client, a couple…after some conversation, we learned that they couldn’t use the car because neither person in the house could drive a standard transmission.

 Just as we figured out that the car could not go to that family, the director wrote me, “I have someone…a single mother, new to town, hard working and in need of a car.” She then added, “And yes, she knows how to drive stick.”

 Within minutes we were in contact with each other. I had a price set for the car. All she had to do was finalize arrangements with social services, and she could come get the car.

 The next day, my cell phone rang at 10:30. The soft, gentle voice of this young lady came over the phone, asking if she could come pick up the car as she had found someone who would be willing to help her get to my house.

 Within 15 minutes, she was here, at my house. I showed her the car and pointed out a few things that would need to be addressed. Then I ushered her into the house, and as we sat at the kitchen table to do paperwork, she began to share with me how she had gotten to the point she was at.

My heart sank, literally it broke for her as I listened. As I beheld her in my kitchen, and gazed into her eyes, I began to realize who she was…not that I knew her personally, but who she represented.

 She was Mary, Mother of Jesus. She had just come to town. She had a young son (still less than a year old).  Their resources were limited and so could not afford certain basic necessities like sound transportation, so she could get to work to provide for her son.

 As I listened, I came to realize that “My Mary” had found no room in the inn. As much as she and the director of social services had knocked on doors, until they came to mine, either there was no room, or nobody had what she needed.

 The car would serve her needs, just as the manger met the needs of the holy family in search of shelter that blessed night. It would get her back and forth to work and to the store. She was ready to buy the car with a loan provided by the social services department.

 There was only one thing left for me to do.

 I folded up the bill of sale, the title which I had signed over to her, and the receipts for the most recent work done on the car (wires, plugs, valve cover, tires). I stuffed it all into an envelope, looked up, and said,

 “Merry Christmas…take the car. It’s yours. There’s no charge.”

She looked at me blankly for a moment, blinked, and blushed slightly. Then with a look of bewilderment she asked

Are you sure?”

            “Yes,” I replied. 

“No, I mean, are you really sure you want to do this?” 

            “Yes,” I replied again, starting to smile.

“Thank you!” She said with a slight downward glance and yet with a smile. And with that she reached out and took the envelope from my hand, and together we walked out of my house. 

I wish there was more I could have done for her at that point. She did more for me than I for her.

 She changed how I see and understand the experience of the Holy Family. Our Christian Art far too often depicts a stylized, clean, radiant scene with two elated parents at the birth of Christ.

 “My Mary” helped me to realize just how tired, broke, lost, frustrated, and alone Mary and Joseph must have been as they entered Bethlehem that night.


When they arrived, not only was there no room for them, but no welcome and no help. The place they wound up in was a dirty, smelly used barn. Jesus’ bed was a trough that the lowliest of animals ate from.

 I thank God that I was challenged to see, at long last, that the King of Kings, his Son, came as a poor, destitute, homeless refugee.

 I know this experience has begun to change how I see things around me. I hope it will for you too. You never know who you are meeting, especially in the marginalized of our society. It might just be the Holy Family…can you look beyond the exhaustion, frustration, fear, isolation, and maybe even the grime of the road to see Jesus, Mary, and Joseph?

 Happy New Year!

Published by

Larry Duffany

Larry is first and foremost a husband and father, married for more than 20 years to his wife Janet, they make their home with their two children, Hannah and Gabriel in Thomaston, CT. A career Catholic school educator, Larry has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. He currently serves as the Chair of the Religion Department at St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, Connecticut. In addition to his full-time teaching, Larry also facilitates adult faith formation courses for the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF) at the University of Dayton and is an adjunct instructor at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut. In his spare time, Larry volunteers with Thomaston Volunteer Ambulance Corps where he is an EMT and a member of their training team.

4 thoughts on “A Red Rust-Bucket and the Holy Family”

  1. Greatest Gift we have is Jesus in our lives. The greatest gifts we can give is show grace, hope, love and reach out to those in need and pay it forward!!!! Blessings!

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