On stepping out into foggy darkness one evening after leaving a neighbor’s house, I was suddenly alarmed and at a total loss to proceed until I spied a street light nearby. There it was, shining boldly through the blackness as if to guide me.
While I could not clearly discern my surroundings, I discovered if I made an effort to focus only on the lamplight in my view, my immediate path would become clear. By searching out each successive street lamp as I progressed along the sidewalk, I was ultimately able to find my way home.
We all need lights to find our way home. Travel down any street in any town on any evening, and you’ll see rows of houses with lights burning in the windows. Interior luminosity seems to transform basic dwellings into veritable lighthouses–—alive, warm, cozy, and inviting– guiding the return of their occupants to safe harbors in the night.
A few years ago, a well-known radio commercial for a roadside inn, Motel 6, promised, “We’ll leave the light on for you!” To know that someone has left a light on for us and is anticipating our arrival, no matter the hour or the darkness, is comforting. We are not alone.
A light in the window means someone is there anxiously waiting to see us, hear about our day, and share our news. We know once we reach that light we’ll be home–where we belong–with those to whom we matter most in this world. That light is our goal, its outstretched beams a clear path to follow.
I’ll never forget coming home late at night from school dances, parties, or babysitting sessions and finding my dear mother faithfully staying up–well past her bedtime. The bright porch light was always on and, there inside the door by her reading lamp, was Mom, waiting for my return. She’d pretend she was so engrossed in her book she’d lost track of time, but I knew the truth. She loved me and was worried about me. She couldn’t sleep until she knew I’d made it home safe and sound.
There’s reassurance in a light piercing the darkness. Lost in the fog of life, if a ray of hope beckons to us, we intuitively move toward it. When shadows are dispelled by a beam of comfort, promising victory over the gloom, problems that seemed momentous and even insurmountable regain their true dimensions and qualities. Things appear less daunting and more manageable. Brilliant new solutions may even be seen. In the light, we take heart and keep going.
Like lights in streets and lamps in windows, certain people we meet along life’s journey light the way for us, through their acts of kindness, warmth, and encouragement. Often, thanks to them, we find our way when before we couldn’t clearly see the path ahead.
In turn, we who have successfully navigated difficult roads can help those coming behind us, by offering bright torches of faith and hope gained through our experiences to help them visualize their way.
As Edgar Guest wrote:
“Teach me to do the best I can
To help and cheer our fellow-man;
Teach me to lose my selfish need
And glory in the larger deed
Which smooths the road and lights the day
For all who chance to come my way.”*
Night has come again, and the enveloping darkness has fallen, but all is well. Someone has left a light on to guide us home.
*He Who Serves, by Edgar A. Guest