I recently visited someone on the twenty-fourth floor of a downtown Detroit office building overlooking the Detroit River. My eye was drawn to a spot a bit north. “Is that a lighthouse?” I asked, my voice filled with wonder and excitement. “I guess,” came the disinterested reply. Just one more lighthouse, ho hum.
For me, though, lighthouses have a taken on a new significance. I love the symbolism of the beacon lighting up the darkness and showing the way. I love that people once lived inside the lighthouses, and I wonder what it was like to be the one who sent out the light.
I find myself noticing lighthouses wherever I go.
I buy Detroit’s dog food at a bait shop near Lake St. Clair. Standing by the door is a five-foot tall, black-and-white striped lighthouse. When I admired it to the owner, he told me it was there when he bought the business and it was too heavy to move. Move? I thought. Why would anyone want to move it? To me, it is the perfect decoration for a business connected with the water (buying dog food at a bait shop is a story for another day though).
My new home is near the Lake, and last summer a local community organization acquired twenty-four concrete lighthouses as part of an art project. Each lighthouse was adopted by a business, civic group, school or nonprofit and then decorated by that organization. Each is distinctive, a unique interpretation of lighting the way.
All of the lighthouses I see remind me of lights in my life, people who have helped me through dark times, who helped me make course adjustments when I needed them, who have been steady guides along my path, each one in a unique way.
Lent starts tomorrow, and one of my daily Lenten practices will be to recall one of the people who has been a light for me—one a day for forty days. I will pray for them, thank God for them and also let them know how grateful I am for their presence in my life.
I hope I never become complacent about the lighthouses dotting the lakes that frame Michigan or the people God has sent to light my path.