Come Home Before Dark

Lately, I’ve been reminded of a saying I once used to guide my kids. The phrase was ‘come home before dark’.

When I was younger, we’d play outside seemingly forever. When we asked to go outside, our parents always said: “Come home before dark.” That was a literal meaning. Once it was dark, if we weren’t home we were in big trouble. As I grew into adulthood and began having children of my own, an old preacher taught me something new about this phrase.

The words home and dark have a deeper meaning to explore.

Come Home

Coming home is about returning to safety. It’s a center of being. As a kid, it was the place I lived. There was love and warmth at home. I could reconnect with who I was at home. The world around me could be throwing flaming arrows, but the home was a fortress. Home was where values were formed. At home we could have honest, loving talks about the things that I worried about.


When something gets dark, there is trouble brewing. Bad things happen in the darkness. You hear people talk about others and say ‘they just went dark.” Lights out, no response.

The Instruction

I wanted my kids to know that they could always come home before dark. My wife and I would be waiting to take them in, give them security, and talk through whatever we needed to talk about.

One night our doorbell rang at about 2:00 a.m. We stumbled out of bed to find our middle son (family of 5 kids). He was in his early 20’s, already graduated, and living in town with a roommate. We could tell he had been drinking, but his first words were “You said come home before dark.”

We said “Sure, glad you did. What’s going on?”

He proceeded to tell us about a party that was going on in his apartment. Suffice it to say it had gotten out of control. The roommate was a college friend. They had invited other college buddies to join. Plenty of drinking followed. Behaviors got wilder and wilder. My son said he had tried to calm things down. He had left his fraternity lifestyle behind the day he walked across the stage to get his diploma. Clearly, these others had not. He sensed the night was not going to end well. Even with his own influence of alcohol, he remembered the words ‘come home before dark.’ And that he did.

As it turned out, later that night, neighbors in the apartments called the police. Some arrests were made, but my son was home safe, out of the darkness.

So What

Why do I share this story with you in a blog about leadership? It’s because I believe leaders guide people home before dark. A leader establishes a home base; somewhere people want to be. Yes, they may venture out on their own to explore new opportunities, new tasks, new direction. But when they sense the darkness, home is where they should turn.

  • Is your team environment a safe home to shield your employees from their darkness?
  • Have you communicated to them your desire that they consider your place a home?

I realize some will read this and say “You have no idea what my home life was like. It was darkness all its own.” To those I say, I am sorry to hear that. Why don’t you create a new home? Surely you will have people around you who need that safety and shelter.

I’m not going to lie when I say this article was prompted by the world we’re in right now, the coronavirus scare. It is scary.

We need leaders who will stand firm in their conviction for choosing the next right step toward creating calm, creating safety, and helping others through the storm.

Will you be that leader, right where you are?

Help others come home before dark.


Doug Thorpe
Doug Thorpe
With 25+ years in executive leadership, Doug is a been-there-done-that kind of leader. He has senior management experience in all major sectors; the military, Fortune 500, entrepreneurial, and non-profit. He has also enjoyed success as an entrepreneur, building several companies and non-profits. Doug’s clients realized significant cost savings, more effective operations, and higher profitability by using his business expertise. Doug provides executive coaching and business consulting services for executives and owners seeking fresh ideas for development of C-suite talent, high potential leaders, and team development. His firm is Headway Executive Coaching. Doug is the author of The Uncommon Commodity.

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  1. Doug, I knew my older son, Sean, was born to coach basketball when he coached his first game, 15 years ago, at age 22. He was coaching a sixth-grade team. Early in the game, the wheels started coming off. His team was getting run off the court. His players were getting more and more frantic. When I looked at the bench, Sean was cool as cuke. He let the mayhem continue for another couple of minutes. Then he called time out.

    When the team huddled up, he didn’t yell. He didn’t point fingers. He didn’t show any lack of composure. Rather, he reminded his players what they’d learned in practice, of what he knew they were capable, and of the discipline he knew each of them had embraced. His players listened intently. Then they looked at each other. I could see the relief in their expressions. They went back on the floor and won the game.

    To use your words, Sean inherently understood his responsibility for creating calm, creating safety, and helping others through the storm.

    Thank you for helping me to remember that. Thank you for your article.

  2. Doug, you and your family must have been really scared and relieved when your son came home. Just as well he remembered what he had been brought up to recognize; that getting home before dark has more than one meaning. I remember a similar phrase and also ‘don’t talk to strangers’. Probably ever more necessary these days.