This cranky old newspaper guy has always tended to be a little suspicious of “good-news” stories whose only purpose is to tug at readers’ heartstrings.
And then I tuned into the CBS Evening News a couple of weeks ago — in between the two disastrous hurricanes that swept across the Carolinas from opposite directions — and found myself totally blown away (so to speak) by one of the most heartwarming stories I’ve seen in a long time.
This one just happened to come at a time when we all desperately needed one, for a barrage of reasons ranging from meteorological to political. And it unfolded (or is continuing to unfold) just a couple of hours southeast of here. If you saw it too — or watched when they repeated it later on “60 Minutes” — I imagine you were wiping away tears of your own.
I’m referring to the intensely heartwarming little segment about a guy named Jaret Hucks, who owns the Midtown Inn and Cottages in Myrtle Beach. After Hurricane Florence had done its devastating deeds, Hucks unhesitatingly went on Facebook and posted that he would give suffering storm victims a place to stay — free of charge.
Needless to say, his offer went viral, and the Midtown has housed lots of eternally grateful guests ever since.
“Jaret has taken in every member of families,” CBS’s Steve Hartman reported. “No-pet policy be damned, the Midtown has welcomed dogs, a tortoise, and even a rescued baby squirrel named Mr. Squeakers. … So far, he has given away about $50,000 worth of service.”
And that was a couple of weeks ago. The value of the bestowed stays must be far higher now. When I called down there this past weekend, Hucks was out of town. But the fellow who answered the phone told me, “We’re still about three-quarters full with displaced persons.”
We’re not talking about some little motel here. The Midtown is a spacious (if aging) four-story building with 70 rooms. And why was this soft-spoken Southerner moved to perform such a breathtakingly good deed? He shrugged and offered a simple explanation to Hartman.
“Love thy neighbor, right?” he said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. My mama taught me that a long time ago.”
In an effort to put his facilities to best use, Hucks has mainly focused on providing shelter for families with children. He put up a sign outlining an informal honor system under which guests who have found another place to stay are asked to free up their rooms for other, more desperate storm victims.
“They’ve been doing it,” Hucks told the Conway, South Carolina, newspaper My Horry News. “I turn over a couple of rooms every day.”
And his act of selflessness was only the beginning. When it became known, many others came forward to supplement it with their own deeds of kindness and generosity, ranging from ice to diapers to free haircuts to great amounts of food.
“They came out of the woodwork,” Hucks told CBS. “People started running to me right away. ‘How can I help? What can I do?’”
And many of the homeless guests themselves have pitched in to help their fellow sufferers with housekeeping, cleaning and baby-sitting chores. This kind of thing is contagious.
“Anyone staying at the Midtown now gets three square meals a day,” Hartman reported. “In fact, from the new shoes on their feet to the hairs on their head, we didn’t see a single need going unmet — especially for the children, who now play wonderfully oblivious to the suffering that surrounds them.”
Thanks, Jaret. I needed that.
Indeed, we all need to witness (not to mention perform) more such acts of selflessness and humility — especially at this time when attitudes of an exact opposite nature so often seem to prevail all up and down in this troubled land of ours.