By S M Chen, posted Oct. 21, 2015 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…” – Matthew 5:16
Have you heard of Thomas Weller? Perhaps not. I didn’t until recently.
For almost 50 years, Weller, aka The Highway Man, has been plying the freeways around San Diego, helping stranded motorists. A mechanic by trade, he never accepts payment, instead handing those he’s aided a card imprinted with a message: “You don’t owe me a thing. I’ve been there too. Someone once helped me out, just like I’m helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here’s what you do: Don’t let the chain of love end with you.”
Or perhaps gives them another card, which reads: “Assisting you has been my pleasure. I ask for no payment other than for you to pass on the favor by helping someone in distress that you may encounter.”
When he was 16, driving alone during a Chicago blizzard, he went off the road into a snow bank and remained trapped (“I could have frozen to death”) until a Good Samaritan stopped and helped him extricate his car. Weller offered payment, but the man refused, saying, “You pass it on when you can.”
Weller took that to heart over the ensuing years, with the attitude, “If I cannot do great things, I’ll do small things in a great way.” He carries a Lucite paperweight with the above apothegm on his dashboard.
Mother Teresa (at whose life most of us can only marvel) put it this way: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
Weller has assisted thousands of motorists and perhaps saved a few lives in the process. The memory of a woman in a stranded VW on the opposite side of the highway still haunts him. Before he could cross the median, the car, with her in it, went up in flames.
Once, when he arrived at a stranded motorist, someone else had gotten there first. Weller asked the other do-gooder what motivated him. The latter replied, “Four months ago my wife had a blowout on the road. Someone came along and changed the tire for her.”
He stuck out his hand and smiled. “By the way, thank you for doing that.”
In 2011, Weller’s good works seemed about to be abruptly truncated. His 1955 Ford wagon was involved in an accident and ended up being garaged. How was he going to continue his humanitarian efforts? He couldn’t afford the requisite repairs.
A couple years later, an eyeglass company started a GoFundMe page for Beulah, as his Ford was affectionately known. One benefactor decided to fix the car out of pocket. Beulah and Weller were back on the road.
You can watch a short (under 3’) video of Weller here.
Weller has commented, “I can’t help everybody, but I try my best.”
The story is reminiscent of the lad at a beach upon which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of starfish were stranded. Upon seeing him fling them, one by one, back into the ocean, a passerby commented, “Why are you doing that? You can’t save them all.”
“Quite right,” replied the lad, “but I can save some.” And he continued throwing starfish back into the sea.
As the above video notes, Weller has two gardens. In the one at home he grows morning glories. The other is on the highway, where he sows seeds of goodness and kindness in an effort to make the world a better place.
One cannot but wish for more gardeners like him.
These words of John Wesley, which I first heard some years ago from a brother who invited me on a medical mission flight to Mexico, come to mind. One could certainly do worse than heed them:
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”