Attending the national conference for Family Promise on the west coast, I take a needed break to walk along the water. I find myself on a path leading to the ocean as a man approaches me and I smile immediately at his apparent mode of transportation and his cleverly equipped load.

Over his apt shoulders is a broom handle shaped stick, yet longer, each end holding a big heavy black trash bag. Below his feet, what at first I think is a hover board, turns out to be a regular skateboard, old and rickety with age and use. He pushes off again as he comes toward me and his heavy load shifts.



Just as he reaches me and I smile to say hello, he winces with discomfort. I notice one of his gold hoop earrings has attached itself to his black hoodie, dragging down his head and causing an issue with his equilibrium. I turn back and say “Can I help you?” as he steps first one foot then the other off his board. He tells me “yes” as I come closer and cautiously let my fingers touch the small tarnished band.

I unhook the culprit, a thin black thread, and ask if I should re-hook his earring or unhook it completely. “You better take it out so it doesn’t happen again” he says as I slide the post out of the hole in his ear, suddenly feeling the intimacy of my task. He takes the gold hoop from me now, into his rough dirty fingers, our hands touching for just a moment as a silent wind overtakes us.
“Thank you Missy,” he says loudly as I turn to walk away and he gives another push forward on his four wheels. I realize suddenly and with certainty that the enormous hope I have for three days of learning has been accomplished with just one simple gesture.