Light Your World
The wind whispers softly in the sails,
telling of adventures to come
on this open sea of life.
The water answers in kind as it crawls
along the sides of this ship I sail
into unknown territory.
Ahead lies the great unknown.
the horizon melting into the starlit sky –
The shore is almost gone – the last vestige of security
creeping slowly into the waters,
soon to disappear forever.
Yet still, the light shines bravely,
urging me on…
the fire never dies…
©1998 – Lane Baldwin
On a cold winter day in the late 1950s, a young Army officer, one member of a small group of pilots in Germany, was about to go home after a long day’s work. Just as he was preparing to leave, word came in that one of his fellow pilots was behind schedule and wouldn’t return to the airfield until well after dark.
If the airstrip had been equipped with landing lights, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but it wasn’t. Nor did it have any of the sophisticated equipment we take for granted in this day and age – equipment that would have made a night landing a simple exercise. This lack of safety equipment, coupled with the dense fog that covered the area, created extremely dangerous conditions – so dangerous, in fact, that the pilot would probably not be able to land safely. However, because he was low on fuel, he was unable to turn back.
Even though the Lieutenant had been relieved by the night duty officer, he chose to stay, waiting for over an hour for his friend to return. When the stray pilot radioed that he thought he was approximately fifteen minutes away from the airfield, the Lieutenant walked out to the end of the gravel airstrip with two of the largest flashlights he could find, each weighing almost twenty pounds. Standing in the fog and a cold drizzling rain that had started moments earlier, he waved the heavy flashlights above his head like searchlights.
Over and over he waved the lights. In a short time his shoulders began to ache from the strain. His forearms cramped painfully and his wrists began to burn. Still he shined the lights up into the fog-covered night. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he could hear the light plane’s engine. Summoning a final burst of energy, the young Lieutenant waved the lights urgently.
Finally, the plane appeared through the fog. But it was too high and not positioned properly for the landing, forcing the pilot to circle around for another try. The young Lieutenant’s strength was gone; his arms refused to move. Slumping in despair, he looked deep within himself but found nothing to bolster him. Just as his knees began to buckle, he cried out. “Please! Let me bring this man home. He has a wife – he has a family. Help me bring him home!”
The Lieutenant fell to his knees with tears of effort and frustration streaming down his cheeks. But just as he thought he couldn’t hold the flashlights aloft any longer, he began to feel a renewed energy. Like a candle in the wind, it flickered faintly within the deepest part of him. Feeling its warmth, he focused his entire being on the light, and as he did so, the light within him grew.
The light brought him strength and renewed determination. He stood again, his legs shaking from the strain. As the light inside him continued to grow, he felt the energy in his arms grow also and he waved the flashlights with renewed vigor. Determination grew in the young man’s heart and resolve shined in his eyes as he peered into the fog searching for his friend.
Again the small plane appeared. This time the pilot had corrected his approach. The small plane floated over the young Lieutenant’s head, it’s engine blaring angrily into the fog. With a final wobble of it’s wings the plane dropped the last few feet to the runway and rapidly slowed to taxiing speed and headed for the hangar.
The Lieutenant collapsed almost as the wheels of the aircraft touched the ground. Unable to move, several men carried him back to the duty hut while others ran to see to the pilot he had just saved. It took several days before the Lieutenant was able to use his arms again, and although he was healed for the most part within a few weeks, his shoulders would ache from time to time as a reminder of that night until he died decades later.
No medal was conferred, no letter of praise written, for that is how the young Lieutenant wished it to be. When word of his deed reached his superior officers, he dismissed the episode, saying that it wasn’t as big a thing as the rumors made it out to be.
But as I stand here today, there is a man – about my age – and a sister a few years younger, who, along with their mother, will never forget the young Lieutenant and his act of loving dedication to his comrade. Because of him, they enjoyed all the gifts a man can give his family. Because of him, their father survived to tell the tale to me, a tale that I will never forget. And within the tale is a lesson I am grateful to have learned.
I am proud to have known the young Lieutenant with the flashlights. I am prouder still that he was my father. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of the light within myself – a light he helped me find. I believe with all my heart and spirit that this same light resides within us all. Call it what you will: use one of the many names of God; call it Spirit or the universal All. Or you may think of it as an energy that flows through the universe bindings us all with each other and with everything else in creation. The name doesn’t matter; how we perceive it doesn’t matter. Yet still the light shines bravely and the fire never dies.
©2001 – Lane Baldwin