As SCOTUS reverts women to medieval times and opens the likelihood of undoing other rights, an unexpected encounter distracted us momentarily from the implosion of our justice system.
In California we go for long walks on the beach every evening. This is our time to unwind, enjoy breathtaking sunsets, and people watch. The joggers, the babies, the surfers, the musicians, the elderly pushing their walkers, the fire dancer, the drummers, the "Dog Father" with his blind dog, and the occasional homeless person induce hope and concern.
Some walkers acknowledge us, others go about without eye contact.
A couple of evenings ago, an Indian man walked by us and waved. My antenna went up because we don't see too many Indians here. On our return loop, we crossed him again and I initiated a conversation. We lingered on the cliff, found out he's a retired Pharma exec, and exchanged phone numbers. We walked away hoping to stay in touch with him.
Last night we ran into our new friend again. This time, he was chatting with a homeless man we have seen before. He hangs from trees for chin ups, he runs, he saunters. He is rail thin, with a white beard and wears a wool cap that sticks out like a sock on the back of the head. Homeless, for sure.
How wrong first impressions are - turns out that this gent is a rocket scientist!
No, I am not kidding.
He has worked for storied aerospace organizations and has done amazing work in France, Russia, Canada and the US. He laughs about looking like a homeless person and remains nonchalant about it.
He invited us to his home for drinks. After our walk, the Pharma exec, Tarun, and I went to the rocket scientist's home to catch up on the backstories of the two gents. As we talked, we discovered unexpected connections with them - neighbors who went to college with Tarun, friends who lived near us two decades ago that we've lost touch with. What a small world, indeed.
At some point the conversation veered to the homeless look. Is it on purpose or happenstance, we asked.
It's the latter we found out and the experiences that follow are hilarious. On several occasions passers-by have brought him leftover foods from nearby restaurants! We asked how he deals with this. With grace, he said. Random acts of kindness from strangers is the most beautiful thing. He often passes the goodies to homeless people. One in particular offered him a can of coke, which he keeps next to photos of his children. The thought that a homeless man would give him half his stash of soda is a memory he will carry forever.
This encounter instilled hope that the sensibility, kindness, and generosity of individuals will turn the collective away from what is now an unfathomably dark time.
A gentle evening aided by the smoothest tequila we've ever had reinforced why it is always a good idea to strike up a conversation with random people on the streets. Even if they appear homeless. You never know what accompanies these gorgeous SoCal sunsets and what lurks under sock caps.