Look out over the Providence skyline any given night at 8:30 and you’ll see dozens of blinking lights. It’s not a trick of the eyes; it’s an entire community using the power of a light to say good night to patients at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
Good Night Lights began in 2010 when the hospital’s resident cartoonist, Steve Brosnihan, was saying goodbye to a patient being discharged the next day. Brosnihan, who commutes by bike and bus, realized the route to his bus stop was visible from the patient’s window. “I told my young friend I would be at that corner at a certain time and would flash a good-night signal with a light mounted on my handlebars,” he says. “I left the hospital that night and flashed the signal back toward the patient’s room as scheduled. To my surprise—and delight—I suddenly saw the rectangle of his window blink on and off in reply.”
Brosnihan arranged the good-night flash with other patients. In 2015, he asked a bar across the river from the hospital, The Hot Club, to flash their neon sign. Good Night Lights took off from there. Each night, tugboat captains and police officers and businesses blink their lights from 8:30 to 8:31. The Biltmore Hotel installed an automated beacon on its roof, and Brown’s Sciences Library created a walking robot signal in its windows. During the school year, student athletes add a human touch with flashlights.
Brosnihan’s simple idea has turned into a moving act of goodwill that unites a community every night. “When I have crazy dreams, I see Good Night Lights catching on in other cities with children’s hospitals,” he says.