Car trouble gives author a warm tale of Darlington’s ‘good people’
By Samantha Lyles
Few things can bring a vacation to a screeching halt faster than a broken-down vehicle, and finding honest help when you’re on the road can be a tricky proposition. But one traveling family had the good luck to have their bad luck occur near Darlington, where some good folks restored their vehicle and bolstered their faith in the kindness of strangers.
“On July 16, a family came in and told us that the belt was broken on their Volvo,” recalls Rebecca Kelly, service writer and office manager at Singletary’s Auto Repair. “The gentleman said they had nine of their 11 children with them and they were trying to get home from vacation.”
The blended family of newlyweds, married in February, were returning to Nashville after a stay in Topsail Beach, N.C. While heading west on I-20, the air conditioning quit in their daughter’s Volvo and dash lights started flashing.
“They got scared because about three and a half years ago, the lady’s van caught fire, so she freaked out about all the lights,” says Kelly. They searched for a nearby Auto Zone, which led them to the Main Street location across the street from Singletary’s. Employees at the parts store confirmed the broken belt but told the family they couldn’t install it, so they came over to the garage for help.
Kelly says the family assumed they couldn’t get the vehicle fixed in Darlington and were trying to secure a tow truck to take it to Columbia.
“But we were able to find the A/C kit for them and got the parts in the next day and got their car fixed so they could go home,” says Kelly, adding that former garage owner Robert Singletary even picked them up at their hotel so they could retrieve their car.
In the process of fixing the vehicle, mechanics also noticed that the car’s two front tires were unsafe and replaced them with two “fairly good” used tires so they could travel safely back to Tennessee.
Kelly says she had no idea at the time that the family’s mom, Rachel Marie Martin, is a published author (“The Brave Art of Motherhood”) with a Facebook group numbering almost half a million, or that her husband, Dan R. Morris, is category director at Podcast Magazine.
“I sent her a message saying I didn’t know why our paths had crossed, but I started reading her blog. She responded to me and that’s when she told me about the van catching on fire and why they were so worried about everything,” Kelly says. “She’s cool, she’s really cool.”
The Volvo is doing just fine now – better than fine, actually. Kelly learned that the family’s 22-year-old daughter just drove the repaired vehicle all the way to Los Angeles.
Also? This isn’t the first time Darlington’s wrench-wielding good Samaritans have unwittingly aided a traveler of status. Kelly says that several years back, when Robert Singletary still owned the business, they towed the wrecked vehicle of a couple en route to Myrtle Beach for a surgical procedure. Robert drove them to Florence to secure a rental car so they could continue their journey and make their appointments.
“And that guy turned out to be the nephew of Billy Graham. His name was Franklin Graham IV,” Kelly says, noting that in both cases help was offered without checking the bona fides of those in need. “That’s just what we do. …We saw a family that needed help and we didn’t ask them, ‘Hey, what’s your background?’ It wasn’t until later that I saw (Martin) had 438,000 followers on Facebook. That’s crazy! You just never know who you’re going to run into.”
Their efforts clearly touched the family, and Martin wrote a long post recounting the episode and conveying her gratitude.
“Thank you, Singletary Auto Repair, for all you did for our family. So many have asked who and where — so this is the ripple of your kindness being shared with my community,” she wrote.
To read Rachel Marie Martin’s account of her family’s Darlington adventure, see the July 17 post on her Facebook page @findingjoyblog.