It was sweltering hot outside, but she continued to play while sitting next to an interstate exit ramp off of I-24 in Middle Tennessee. For those who enjoy music, one might assume that she was here for Bonnaroo. I also made the assumption and asked, “Did you go to Bonnaroo?” She looked at me as if I were from another planet, “Everyone has asked me that… I don’t even know what that is?”
She told me she was from New Jersey (859 miles away) and was just passing through. She could play and she could play well. I sat in front of her and listened as cars got off the interstate and the drivers looked to me like I was committing some type of a crime. One driver held his hand out his window with a one dollar bill waiving in the slight breeze. I got up and took it from him and thanked him, then handed it to her as she continued to strum her weathered fingertips across the strings of the banjo.
The banjo itself had been loved over the years and you could see the wear in the both the neck and the head. The bridge was a carefully placed twig sitting under the strings. Notes on the head read, “GOD IS DEAD and FUKIT.”
All she asked for was a bottle of water. I happened to have a single unopened bottle with me as we had just handed out multiple waters to many living on the streets of Nashville, TN. Somehow, that one water was left – it had rolled under the seats in the back. I think someone knew I would see her and she would be thirsty – perhaps the name on the banjo of whom she assumes is dead. I don’t usually quote Bible verses, but in this case it is directly on target.
Matthew 25:35: For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.