My father was a contractor. He built houses. Most of my summers were filled with manual labor on his job sites. My brother and I were my father’s backhoe. I spent many a hot summer day down in a ditch with a pick and shovel.
Our crew was a constantly changing group made up of men who had recently arrived from Mexico and white guys from the wrong side of the cultural tracks in our community, all who needed a job and a fresh start. We were a unique blend of humanity. After a long hot week, Friday was a day that carried the hope of a paycheck and a couple of days off.
Every so often my father would surprise his work crew on a Friday. He would tell the men he was making lunch. About 10:30 he would leave the job site and reappear with groceries. He rolled out a wheelbarrow and lined up bricks to elevate a BBQ grill off the bottom of the wheelbarrow. then he would dump in some briquettes and start a fire. In a few minutes, steaks, Van Camp beans and bread would be prepared. The smell of the BBQ put smiles on our weary faces. As lunch was served, dad would pull out a couple of six-packs of ice-cold Olympia beer and hand them out to the men. It looked like the scene from the Shawshank Redemption where the inmates were drinking a beer on the prison rooftop. After the men had their fill of steak dad would hand out their paychecks and call it a day and send them home.
Around those lunches, I heard the stories of the lives of these unique men. They became more than just my co-laborers. They became a human with value and a story. Everyone who worked for Charlie Elkins loved him because they knew he came from a similar rough beginning as the one they were currently navigating. When they shared his lunch they were also sharing his life.