By Chuck PalmerYou wouldn’t think a license plate would make a difference. Don’t tell that to Jim Hall. As Hurricane Irma was bearing down on south Florida, Hall, a long time resident of Douglas County, noticed more and more vehicles with Florida tags at local gas stations and convenience stores. While stopped at the QuikTrip on Chapel Hill Road, September 5th, he felt moved to do something.
“I met two families (separately) at QuikTrip today. Not on purpose. I saw they both had Florida tags, packed full of clothes and food and one with two small kids. I asked them point blank if they were on the move from the possible hurricane. And they both said yes. Here’s what I could do: I bought them both a 24 pack of water, and a fill up. Total cost to bless two families? Less than $100.00,” shared Hall in a characteristic accent that reminds one of Lewis Grizzard and Ludlow Porch.
“One woman cried like I'd saved her life. Imagine that. She hugged my neck till it cracked, did my soul good. They left everything they have to get a jump-start on the potential disaster. I'm sleeping in my bed, in my house, under my own roof. Think about blessing someone who isn't and trying to get somewhere safe. It'll do wonders for the travelers, you, and relations. Remember this: Mankind is our business.”
Hall points out that giving directly is immediate and without loss to administrative costs and bureaucracy. He realized, however, after the fourth or fifth tank of gas, that there was a limit to his pocket. He saw a way to carry on. A few years ago Hall self-published a book, a memoir of a college adventure with his best friend, entitled The Train Ride. Determined to continue his giving of tanks of gas to storm refugees, he pledged all of his share of the Kindle sales of The Train Ride to those travelers. Every time Amazon clicks off a handful of sales, Hall heads out with a smile on his face and a keen eye, looking for those Florida tags.
Mr. Hall is not alone in his efforts. Social media has been full of posts by local residents that read “Florida friends, I have room at my place. Come here and be safe,” or “If you have family on the coast, please let them know I have room for them and their pets!” One friend posted to Jim that he just wasn’t “wired like” Jim. He didn’t have that gift of gab that made him comfortable talking to strangers, but he was inspired to give to the effort. “I’m not trying to honk my own horn,” said Hall, “this community can look past its own challenges pretty quick when their fellow Americans are in need, regardless of what anyone else thinks.”