Before we could arrive at an answer a flatbed stake sided truck stopped for us. The driver pointed us to climb in the back. We joined several young folks huddled together to deflect the breezes springing up soon as we got under way. We joined in and found we were in the company of a Jesus community based in Chattanooga. They were openly friendly and invited us to come along with them. Today they were headed to a farm they owned and worked. Although they were pleasant, both Ron and I were heeding a different call. They arrived at their turn off rather soon and let us out with an invitation to return and join their community if ever we came back to that neighborhood. It seemed an enticing offer.
It took the rest of the day to get to Lexington, Kentucky. Here Ron introduced me to Sallie Ann. He learned the ropes in his travels and quite often availed himself of Salvation Army shelters for the homeless and suffering. I accompanied him and went through their registration process. The price of a warm meal and safe bed in which to sleep was an agreement to attend a prayer, lecture, worship session that lasted two hours after the meal. I could afford that so agreed to attend. I was put off by the feeling that there brand of salvation seemed to have a price--adherence to their program. It did not fit with my beliefs that salvation was a free gift, not a consumer product to be pushed at the unfortunate. Since I had paid my fees, I decided to spend the night and likely leave this life style to Ron.
They did provide a breakfast. I discussed with Ron, my feelings about Sallie’s program. He heartily agreed, but regarded pretending to go along with their program a cheap price for a meal and warm cot. In a material sense I agreed, but wondered what other unseen charges might occur. After breakfast the day program began. Men were ushered outside and admonished to go job seeking . They were not allowed admission to the shelter during the day. Mothers and homeless women, could stay inside and help with chores. Outside several men were milling about figuring where to head for the day. We were joined by a couple of woman who came outside to enjoy a smoke. One claimed to be an artist.
Melissa offered to sketch my portrait in a small pad I was carrying. It seemed a nice gesture and I agreed. Before she began, she stated that while concocting such work, she found it advantageous to hold a possession of mine while she rendered my features in pencil. The ruby ring I was wearing would suffice to serve this purpose. It took perhaps a half hour, to come up with a rudimentary likeness. While she worked, Melissa spilled out her story. Her two young children were inside. She managed to obtain a lengthy stay at this shelter and felt a permanent victim of life’s circumstances. There was hint that her solution would be to hook up with a man. There were plenty around, but no takers. I had nothing in the way of a solution for her. She managed to pry from me enough money to buy a pack of smokes. After she finished and handed back my sketchpad, she took leave and returned inside. I realized she still had my ring and I could not follow her inside to fetch it. I felt relieved the accursed thing had finally left me. I hoped it would not bring her harm. It did not feel worth hanging around to retrieve it, so internalizing a prayer for Melissa’s well being, I headed back to the highway toward Indianapolis.