The light of a common candle in the window of a little cottage near the coast shone far out over the sea. It was up north of Scotland, in one of the Orkney Islands. Near the window sat a frail, gray-haired woman with cheery, thoughtful face. She was busy working at her spinning-wheel, and watching the candle, turning now and again to trim it. All night long she sat at the spinning-wheel and watching the candle. Fishermen out on the water, heading for home, knew that light could be counted on, and came safely in, past all the dangers of their coast.
For more than fifty years that woman tended her little lighthouse. When she was a young girl there had been a wild storm, and her father, out in his fisherman's boat, lost his life. There were no shore-lights. His boat had struck a huge, dangerous rock called Lonely Rock, and been wrecked. The father's body was found in the morning washed up on the shore. She watched by her father's body, as was the habit of her people, until it was laid away. Then she laid down on her bed and slept the day through. When night came she rose, lit a candle, put it in the window, drew up her spinning-wheel, and began her night vigil for the unknown out at sea.
All night long, and all her life long, her vigil of love and light continued. From youth to old age, through winter and summer, storm and calm, fog and clear, that humble lighthouse beacon failed not. Each night she spun so many hanks of yarn for her daily bread, and one hank over for the candle. She turned night into day, reversing the whole habit of her life, and holding every other thing subject to her self-imposed task of love. And through the years many a fisherman out at sea, and many an anxious woman watching by hearth and crib, sent up heart-felt thanks to God for that little, steady light. And many a life was saved, of which no record could be kept.
That tells the whole story of sacrifice. A need, nobody to meet it; the need passing into an emergency; and that into the tragedy of an unmet emergency; a heart sore torn to bleeding by the tragedy thrust bitterly home; then sacrifice, lifelong, that others might be saved where her loved one was lost, and still others spared what she herself suffered. And that story has been repeated with endless variations, and is being repeated, in every land, on every mission-field, home and foreign, and in almost every home of all the world.