The Unexpected Gift of Annotation

The fun thing about the Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms is that in addition to their more spiritual gifts, they sometimes also contain other things.

While it is generally considered an urban legend, I can say with complete confidence that finding money in a Gideon does happen — I found this dollar in a motel Gideon in Ames, IA some years ago, tidily marking a rather unremarkable place in 1st Chronicles (not the most exciting of scriptural locations). I have no idea who put it there or why — usually, if you find something that looks like money in a Bible, it’s a bit of fakery for the purpose of proselytization, and not real money at all. In Ames that day, though, the Lord and/or a previous resident of the room provided a dollar when I needed money for the vending machine, which was certainly nice!

As it happens, money is not the only thing people leave behind in nightstand Bibles. Sometimes (as I discovered in my hotel room in downtown Denver, CO recently) you get advice:

It’s a funny sort of thing, that annotation. There’s a story or three in it, to be sure. “You need help?” It seems to ask, before telling the reader (sadly? angrily?) to “Put this down and find your own way.” Is this the wisdom of someone who tried both ways, or the exasperation of someone tired of being sold what this Bible offers? Has anyone else found the annotation, and availed themselves of its suggestion to find their own way? It’s hard to tell on that last point — like most hotel Gideons, this one looks shiny and new. Other than the annotation, it’s pristine, as if the only other time it were ever opened was the occasion of its being annotated. This little written competition for the traveler’s soul also suggests a small, nearly invisible move in an ongoing cultural and political dispute about the nature of hospitality to the needy, to the traveler, etc. One wonders if its message (its many messages, really) has ever reached or will ever reach the person it’s all meant to help.

Also, frivolously: While I’m happy enough to find my own way, a small donation to the vending machine cause never hurts…

About L. M. Bernhardt

Deaccessioned philosopher. Occasional Musician. Academic librarian, in original dust jacket. Working to keep my dogs in the lavish manner to which they have become accustomed.
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