Dusk settled over the valley, the worn mountains to the west silhouetted against the remnants of fading sunlight. At this time of year, with the days shortening, Dad got home from work after dark.
“Joe, honey,” said Joe’s mom over her shoulder as she finished washing some dishes, “please go turn the porch light on.”
“Okay!” Joe replied, getting up from where he was playing on the living room floor. He went to the front door and flipped one of the two light switches. The windows brightened through the curtains.
Mom set down her dishtowel and joined him. She didn’t need to say anything at this point because they did this every evening at this time of year. Joe pulled the door open, and they went onto the covered porch of their house. A breeze wandered down from the heights behind the house, bringing with it the scent of pine trees. They sat on a porch swing and looked out into the night.
Here and there in the distance, a lit window was visible, and down in town, a few streetlights shone. But just beyond the porch, where the light was plenty bright, it seemed to Joe that everything seemed so dark by comparison.
“Mom,” he said.
“Does the porch light really help Dad? It’s just one little light in the middle of all this dark. Everything looks so black outside the edge of the light.”
Mom smiled and didn’t answer right away. A few moments later she said, “The light may not seem like much when we’re looking into the darkness from within it. It goes only so far. But to someone looking at the light from out there, it makes all the difference. Dad can find his way more easily from out there even with our little light on.”
Joe nodded and leaned into her. Soon, the headlights of Dad’s car bounced into view down the slope and drew closer. He pulled onto their gravel driveway, called to them with a big grin as he got out, and gave them hugs on the porch.
As they went in, Joe said, “Mom? Dad? Can we leave the porch light on? Maybe someone will need that light.”
His parents looked at each other, smiled, and shrugged. “Sure,” Mom said while Dad tousled his hair. And the light stayed on.
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