Sowing the seeds of kindness on San Diego's highways

(CBS News) SAN DIEGO - We've met many wonderful people over the years. We decided to check in on one of our favorites. If you ever get stuck, this is one guy you do want to meet, "On the Road."

Thomas Weller has two gardens: One in his backyard, where he grows morning glories -- and one on the highway, where he sows the seeds of kindness.

"There's too much anger and distrust and fear out there," Weller said. "I'd like the world to be a better place."

To that end, as we first told you three years ago, Tom has been patrolling the highways of San Diego in his "Ghostbusters"-inspired rescue vehicle rescuing the frazzled and frustrated.

One couple receiving Weller's help was overheated (as was their car).

Fortunately, this was their lucky day. A mechanic by trade, Tom is prepared for just about any roadside emergency.

"This is way better than AAA," one woman said.

Weller helps that couple first find their spare tire -- then change it. Of course, eventually, people always ask him, "Why are you doing this?" To which Weller responds without saying a word.

"He gave me a card," the woman said. "It says, 'Assisting you has been my pleasure. Pass on the favor by helping someone in distress that you may encounter.'"

Donations to Weller's efforts can be made to:
San Diego Highwayman
Goose Creek Ranch, 504 Macon St.
El Cajon, Ca. 92019

It's the same message Tom first heard 40 years ago after he plowed his car into an Illinois snow bank.

"I probably would have froze there if this fellow hadn't stopped and helped me," Weller recalled.

Since then, Tom has paid the favor forward more than 5,000 times. Of course, on rare occasion, some other Good Samaritan will beat him to the punch. In fact, that happened not long ago - -and Tom actually asked the do-gooder why he had stopped to help the stranger.

"He said four months earlier his wife had had a blow out on the freeway and somebody stopped to help her," Weller recounted. "And he said, 'By the way, thank you for doing that for my wife.'"

Obviously, somebody had read his card.

It had all come full circle. As Weller puts it, "That's my garden growing."

Unfortunately, after we first told this story, Tom took big hit. He says someone cut him off, totaling his special rescue car.

He can't repair it and says he's having a hard time getting over it.

At this point, helping others has become such a part of him he'd surely wither without it, which is why he continues to patrol in his back-up vehicle. It's not suited for the job so he can't help as much -- but occasionally he's still able to plant that seed of a good deed.

What's the trouble little lady," he asks another stranded driver.

"I just ran out of gas."

"That's the simplest and easiest thing I do."

And with that kindness continues taking root -- here in the fallow field of the American freeway.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, e-mail us.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

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