Sometimes there’s a line from a commercial that captures something profound about life. Motel 6’s line from their commercials does that for me. It says, “We’ll leave the light on for ya.”
Motel 6 began using the line in 1986. It happened by accident. The advertising agency had asked Tom Bodett, a National Public Radio personality, if he would do the commercial for them. They liked his warm and folksy voice. At the end of the first taping session, Bodett ad-libbed the now famous words: “We’ll leave the light on for ya.” The company liked the line so much, they kept it as their slogan. To this day, the line is still being used. In fact, the ad, with Bodett’s voice and the catchy music, was named one of the top 100 best advertising campaigns in the 20th Century!
I began to wonder why I like this line so much. I think it goes back to my childhood. I was raised in a semi-rural area where it got very dark at night. Streetlights were almost non-existent. Houses, often with long driveways, were few and far between. But when we pulled into our driveway after dark, we saw that light shining on the side porch. My mother had remembered to put it on before we left for the day.
That little porch light told us we were home. And we were safe. Even today, when I come home late, I’m relieved and happy to see the two porch lights on for me. The two sisters I live with remembered to put them on. The porch light means I won’t have to navigate the porch steps or fumble with my keys in the dark. What’s more, the porch light always makes me feel welcome.
This made me wonder: Does the line “We’ll leave a light on for ya,” have any relevancy for our spiritual life? Does God leave the light on for us? I think God does. I figure it this way. We are all on our way home. Sometimes our earthly journey is well-lit and easy and safe. Other times our journey is dark and difficult and scary. Maybe we can’t see clearly where we’re going. And we begin to fear we will never find our way home.
But God leaves “porch lights” on for us along our way. Often these porch lights are people—especially our family and friends. They show up just when we need them. Their words or deeds or example help illuminate our way.
Other times the porch lights can be a line from scripture, a paragraph in a
spiritual book, a sentence from a homily, a news clip about an individual who inspires us, the smile or giggle of a child, the reassuring touch of a loved one, a thoughtful gesture from a neighbor, the purr of a cat, or the sight of a maple tree decked out in bright red leaves.
Whatever form the porch light takes, it gives us courage and strength to continue on our journey home, knowing that God is with us every step of the way.
What are some of the porch lights that are helping you find your way home?
PS: A big thank you to the Sisters of the Holy Cross I met in South Bend when I facilitated their retreat last week. What a beautiful group of women! Special thanks to Sr. Mary Ellen and to Kay for helping to make the retreat run so smoothly.
PS #2: I ask your prayers for a women’s retreat I’ll be leading this weekend (Oct. 13-14) at Bergamo retreat center near Dayton, OH. Thank you!
I found this short video “by chance.” At first it sounds like an old ad for Motel 6. But it has a good message and a surprise ending…
Our song for today is “Christ Be Our Light” composed by Bernadette Farrell:
I welcome your response to this reflection, the question, the video, or the song.