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A newly single mom wasn't sure she could make ends meet. They threw her a lifeline

Sabrina Kronk and her daughter Katie. During a time when Kronk said she was worried about finances, a group of mechanics helped the family of two out by providing free parts and labor to fix their SUV.
Sabrina Kronk
Sabrina Kronk and her daughter Katie. During a time when Kronk said she was worried about finances, a group of mechanics helped the family of two out by providing free parts and labor to fix their SUV.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


Twenty years ago, Sabrina Kronk was a newly single mother struggling to make ends meet. One fall morning, she bundled up her three-year-old daughter, Katie, and got her into the car to go to daycare. When Kronk turned the key, she heard a strange clicking sound.

"My heart just sunk," Kronk said. "And even though it was a beautiful day, my spirits just plummeted."

Her Jeep Grand Cherokee, which already had over 250,000 miles on it, had been in the shop multiple times over the past few months. The repairs were expensive, and Kronk braced herself for another financial setback.

Eventually, the car rumbled to a start and she drove it straight to the dealership to get it repaired, hoping it wouldn't break down on the way. When she arrived, the mechanics got to work. They took the keys, pulled out her daughter Katie's car seat, and moved it into a courtesy shuttle.

"They had done it so many times that it was like we had our own personal pit crew," Kronk recalled.

The courtesy shuttle took them to the daycare. From there, Kronk walked to work. Later that afternoon, she got a call – the car was ready. She headed back to the daycare to pick up Katie; they shuttled back to the dealership. All the while, Kronk worried about the astronomical bill she was about to pay. But when she took out her wallet, the cashier smiled.

"She told me there was no charge," Kronk said. "They had miraculously found the part I needed at no cost."

Kronk thought there must be some mistake. "I said, 'Could you check that? Like, what's the labor cost going to be?"

But the cashier assured her that the mechanics had donated their labor – there was really no charge. Still confused, Kronk asked to verify this with the service manager.

"He came over to me and walked me to my car and just told me not to worry about it," she said. He assured her that everything was covered. Kronk was speechless.

Sabrina Kronk and her daughter Katie about 20 years ago and more recently during Katie's graduation.
/ Sabrina Kronk
/
Sabrina Kronk
Sabrina Kronk and her daughter Katie about 20 years ago and more recently during Katie's graduation.

The manager ushered her into the car, gave it two taps on the hood and sent Kronk and her daughter on their way home.

"I'll just never forget that kindness and generosity," Kronk said. "It made it possible for us to survive financially the rest of the month."

During this time in her life, Kronk often felt she had to pick herself up, dust herself off and build a thick skin in order to face another day. In fact, she has a photo that reminds her of that feeling. In it, she and Katie are on a trip they took shortly after becoming a family of two.

"She's sitting in my lap and she's smiling really big, but when you look at me, I'm holding onto her for dear life," Kronk said. "And when I would look at that picture, I would think to myself, 'It was me and Katie against the world.'"

Kronk once shared that sentiment with her daughter, who is now in her 20s and owns two successful businesses. "And she said, 'Mom, it wasn't us against the world. We had so many people helping us along the way,'" Kronk recalled her daughter saying.

The truth is, Kronk said, she survived that difficult time not only because of her own toughness but also the kindness of the people around her. Like the personal pit crew that came to her rescue that day.

"This small act they did for me really broke that down," Kronk said. "It made me realize maybe I didn't need to be so tough all the time."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kristin Wong
Autumn Barnes