We called him “Flash.” I never knew his real name. Dark brown hair, chubby cheeks, and when he was standing, he stood about waist high. He rarely stood though, which is how he earned the nickname “Flash.”
One minute here, the next over there. I began seeing him regularly for meals at Plowshares and offered him and his brother little toys as incentives for staying with their parents and sitting in their chairs.
One evening at dinner, Flash’s parents accidentally locked their keys in their van and I had the opportunity to give them a ride to the hotel where they were living.
My little Toyota pickup would only hold two extra people at a time and so I made several trips in the rain that night to get the entire family safely to their hotel. I learned a lot about them. They had experienced numerous health problems and their youngest son was autistic. They were unable to find a home that they could afford and did not have the credit or deposit required. That evening was to be their last night in the hotel because they were once again out of money. The next few days they would be living in their van and eating meals at Plowshares until they could again cover the cost of a hotel or come up with another plan.
Flash and his family have since moved to Southern California where they have family support. I’ve thought a lot about Flash and his family…I miss those chubby cheeks and wide grin. I even miss having to remind him to settle down and sit with his parents.
I think the meals at Plowshares were definitely about food, they had nowhere else to go, but they were also so much more…they were about community, social connections, and maybe even some positive maternal guidance.
That saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, I believe it’s true.