Lighthouses are often seen as emblems in this day and age. People travel to them from all over the country and world. They are drawn to them, desiring to personally visit these buildings that effectively directed sailors towards home and away from danger. Even though many of them do not function anymore, we can learn not only from their purpose, but also from our attraction to them.
There is something particularly romantic about lighthouses. They promise an answer, a way back to safety and dry land. They also serve as a guide away from the rocky shores that might prove treacherous. Their light promises to help others—even when they do not receive immediate credit for this. Even though many of them are not functional, they still serve as beacons.
There are many metaphors to be found in the concept of lighthouses. As we individually head out into the world and attempt to make a positive impact in our daily lives, a lighthouse serves as a helpful visual representation of this effort. The obvious correlation to a lighthouse and our own “light” is the idea that we should shine light into the world through our actions. We can do this in big, noticeable ways—but we can also do it in the small, everyday interactions we have. We can shine light by simply being kind and understanding to people we do not know personally.
One of the most inspiring qualities of a lighthouse was the fact that night after night, it continued to shine even if the people who maintained them did not know whose ships they reached. A lighthouse keeper must have had faith that the light would prove to be useful to someone at some point, even if he or she never realized whom the light actually helped. They had a responsibility to ensure the light was shining and had the capacity to offer assistance.
I’d like to linger on this point in particular. Yes, it is good to “be a lighthouse” and shine our light out towards others. But it is also essential to remember that lighthouses stand alone. They shine without any return on their output, without any acknowledgement or thanks. And even though they act on their own, their impact and reach is much wider than may at first be obvious.
It is not always possible to see how far a light reaches—or with whom it comes into contact. It is still our responsibility to shine even though we may never know fully all the people we influence.