We wanted to clear St. Louis having left Chicago too late in the day to make it straight through to Texas. Driving down the I-44 our eyes were peeled in the diminishing light for a roadside sign that would point us to a cheap sleep. Well, we found that sign and our budget lodging in Nowhere, Missouri but what we weren't expecting was another sign.
This sign was framed and hung on the back of our motel room door in St. Clair, Missouri. Was it a sign from God?
The Stranger Within Our Gates
— To Our Guests —
In ancient times there was a prayer for
'The Stranger within our gates.'
Because this hotel is a human institution to serve people,
and not solely a money making organization,
we hope that God will grant you peace and rest
while you are under our roof.
May this room and hotel be your 'second' home.
May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams.
Even though we may not get to know you,
we hope that you will be comfortable and happy
as if you were in your own house.
May the business that brought you our way prosper.
May every call you make
and every message you receive
add to your joy.
When you leave,
may your journey be safe.
We are all travelers.
From 'birth till death'
we travel between the eternities.
May these days be pleasant for you,
profitable for society,
helpful for those you meet,
and a joy to those who know and love you best.
After a lifetime of wandering the nation's highways and byways, its hotels and motels, from no-star to five-star, this inn in the Heartland was the first time that The Stranger Within Our Gates was witnessed. One gets accustomed to ignored Gideon bibles in bed-side tables that are never opened but a specific prayer for travelers...that was a new one, at least to these eyes.
But is it new?
A cursory look online for the origins of The Stranger Within Our Gates revealed no author but many testimonials from travelers who had come across laminated versions of the prayer resting on their roadside pillows on layovers across America. The prayer alludes to ancient times and references to the phrase that is the title can be found in the Fourth of the Ten Commandments as well as in Deuteronomy 31 12.
It's been five months since that Texas road-trip and The Stranger Within Our Gates has stayed with me. It appears to have been more than just a sign.