(Some of you may have heard about this, and I admit I learned about it from a GEICO radio ad…but it’s worth retelling.)
Steve Brosnihan is a cartoonist who has spent the last 26 years volunteering at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, RI. Back in 2010, as he was saying goodnight to some of the patients there, he realized that the route he took bicycling home was visible from the six-story building. He promised some of the kids that if they looked out their window at 8:30, on his way home he’d turn and flash his lights to wish them goodnight. The kids loved it, it became part of his routine, and Steve started inventing different daily messages to entertain the young patients.
Last fall, as Steve was biking home, he stopped into a local pub called the Hot Club, which is visible from the hospital. He told the owners about his nightly ritual, and convinced them to add their neon sign to his bright goodnight blast. The Hot Club flashed their sign for one minute that night, and in the days that followed they started handing out flashlights to their patrons sitting out on their deck. Each night at 8:30 the whole crowd was lighting up the waterfront.
The Providence cops soon found out about it. And they rounded up a few off-duty officers to bring their cruisers (and their families) to another spot on the water, and add some high-powered colorful beacons to the growing display. Students at Brown University’s library joined in. So did the Biltmore Hotel. And a local retirement community. And lots of other individuals and business all along the water. There’s even a church, barely visible almost 2 miles away, that joined the display.
And so now every day at Hasbro Hospital, young patients enduring terrible challenges have something to look forward to. Each night at 8:30, they make their way to their windows and get the support of the entire city for one long magical minute. It means the world to them, and they enjoy flashing back their thanks. As one patient said, “It’s special to know that people I don’t even know will take the time to flash goodnight.”
“The Goodnight Lights” is a simple nightly ritual that has bound one city together – giving hope to some and a sense of community to all.
And all through the simple magical power of light.