To the editor:
On June 21, I passed through Ellerbe on my way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Something happened that morning that strengthened my faith in humanity.
My family and I (two twin daughters age 4, 1 daughter 7 months old and my wife) were traveling down U.S. 220 when I noticed I was getting great mileage out of my once-full tank of gas. It was just at that moment I noticed my engine lose power and then realized my fuel gauge was stuck on a quarter-tank.
Luckily, this happened right in front of the on-ramp to U.S. 220 Alternate, so I coasted up and had just enough momentum to carry me all the way to the top where I had stopped and tried to call Triple-A for help.
At the time, I didn’t know my exact location (later I learned it from the state trooper location) since my navigation system wasn’t pulling up the street name. AAA said if I knew where I was, they would gladly send someone for $80 plus fuel and time. It would end up costing me around $125 — which I wasn’t prepared to spend. See, my family had budgeted money to entertain the kids on vacation and, this expense would surely eat into this amount.
I knew there was a gas station 2 miles into town but, it being 6:30 a.m., I just hoped it was open. I was about to start the trek and leave the family in the car when a nice gentleman named Donny (I can’t remember his last name) stopped and asked if I needed help. I was surprised by this action as I was taught to be cautious of everyone in this day in age, and yet this gentleman stopped and offered his assistance.
Donny reminded me of my recently deceased grandfather, a coal miner from Virginia who had never met a stranger. I would like to think that Donny was there at that time as a way to show me my grandpa was still watching over me. He agreed to drive me back into to town to get gas and bring me back. On the five-minute ride into town, I was so impressed and humbled by this gesture and kept offering money for the ride. After all, he saved me a long hike and even the AAA charge of $125. He refused my offer and said it wouldn’t be right to take my money.
He was glad to help and wished my family the best. However, after emptying the gas can in my car (1 gallon is all the station had in the way of a gas can), the car wasn’t starting. I must have been completely out of gas. I told Donny that I would be OK and I would just call AAA and pay the charge. I wasn’t going to have him drive me back into town 1 gallon of gas at a time. I was just glad I hadn’t walked into town to only walk back with 1 gallon of gas that wouldn’t have helped the situation any.
To my amazement, another act of kindness came while on the phone with AAA. A man stopped by and asked if I still needed help. I told him I believed I needed more gas and he said to sit tight and he would be right back. Lee Berry was his name, and true to his word, he came back with $10 of gas and told me to start the car.
While this was going on, a state trooper also stopped and stayed by the car to offer assistance. He told me the gentleman who was helping me, Lee Berry, was his neighbor and also the mayor of Ellerbe. Needless to say, my car still didn’t start, but Mr. Berry believed it was the battery. So he offered a jumpstart, and this successfully started my car and brought relief to my now-worried kids in the car and wife.
Of course just as Donny did, Mr. Berry refused payment for his time and money for gas and just said I should stop by The Berry Patch the next time I passed through Ellerbe.
It was this kindness that I experienced in Ellerbe that morning that has me still telling everyone about it. I am from Ohio and you don’t see this hospitality and kindness up here that often. It sure was nice to see there are good, caring people in this world willing to help another out.
I was also very curious to learn more about Ellerbe and found it to be a relatively small town compared to anything up here in Ohio. However, I can bet that this town has more hospitality per square mile than any place I have been here.
It’s nice that when life hits you with unexpected bumps in the road, you can count on the kindness of others to lend a hand. I look forward to my next trip down to Myrtle Beach and will surely stop by Ellerbe again — but hopefully on my own accord — and will hope to repay the kindness of Ellerbe. I will surely be paying this kindness forward.
Thank you to Donny, the state trooper and Lee Berry. Also, thank you to the lady working the gas station that morning who took my call and suggested some taxi companies that may be of help. However, they couldn’t transport containers of gasoline, so I wasn’t able to use them.
Justin Johnson and family