I remember that night well. Responsibilities at church in both St. Pete and Tampa had kept me in town during the Sabbath, and I had to work Monday morning early, but family is family and I wanted to see the wedding of one of my cousins slightly north of Macon, Georgia. Being a person of great persistence but limited imagination, I only saw one solution, and that was to give some relatively quick farewells and drive up on Saturday night to Georgia, which took about eight hours to do including a stop to eat dinner and fill the gas tank near Lake City. By the time I arrived at my destination, it was past midnight. I slept on the couch, went to the morning rehearsal and the afternoon wedding the next day, and then I returned home to arrive around midnight to sleep a few hours of fitful sleep and then go to work on Monday morning. Strictly speaking, it may not have been the most sane thing to do–driving sixteen hours on a weekend is not something most people would find particularly enjoyable, but it did remind me that the willingness to make sacrifices of time for family can influence someone to leave the light on for you even where that may not otherwise be assumed to be the case.
As someone who has traveled a fair amount in my life, it should make sense that I think of inns and hotels a fair bit . I have had many experiences staying in hotels, visiting hostels for conferences or church services, or taking advantage of the restaurants within them or attached to them. I have even, on one occasion, gone to a concert in a hotel. To be sure, hotels are places where one can sleep away from home, but they are also a great deal more than that. Hotels are a sign of civilization, as their existence means that there are enough people who congregate at a point that they need lodging, and usually means that there is something worth seeing. Perhaps the quirkiest place I can remember staying over the course of my travels is the area known affectionate as South of the Border, just on the South Carolina boundary of the state line with North Carolina. Once my father and brother and I failed to stop here and were unable to find another hotel until Raleigh after a long trip, and our stays at South of the Border were full of odd vibrating beds and a delightfully kitsch atmosphere, which is quite fine by me.
It is not only hotels that leave the light on but also houses. As I mentioned earlier, it was a pleasing sight for me to see the light on at the home of my aunt and uncle as I arrived particularly bleary-eyed that Saturday night as I arrived for the wedding of my cousin. I have even left the light on for others. Just last night, for example, I arrived home to see that my roommate was away somewhere, who knows where, and being at least a bit concerned about his well-being I left the light on for him. When I woke up bleary-eyed this morning, I found that the light was still on and his car was still gone, and so I turned the light off and got ready for work. Sometimes just like a lonely hotel with a vacancy sign, we leave the light on and no one bothers to come. Having a light on is merely a sign that one is waiting and hoping for someone to arrive. Whether or not they do is not always a matter that is in our hands. We have to do the best we can without certainty, at times.
How do we deal with that uncertainty? Do we only leave the light on when we are certain that someone will come? Do we never leave the light on at all for fear that at some times we may appear to be somewhat foolish or wasteful leaving the light on all night, as happens when we may fall asleep with the light on, as happens to many of us who are insomniacs from time to time who simply do not know well when we will fall asleep at last and seek to take advantage of as much waking time as possible? Or do we simply try to make the best of it, knowing at times that the light we leave on will be a welcome sight for some people sometimes, and knowing that at sometimes we will shine our light for ourselves alone because there will not be anyone else around who cares about it? That choice is ours to make, and we bear responsibility alone for it.
 See, for example: