“Hush, hush I would never let anything harm you,” whispers my mother as she tucks me into bed. I’m five years old, a restless child with a limitless imagination. And tonight my imagination has me convinced there are saber-toothed tigers under my bed. They thirst for the blood flowing through me. I hear their jaws slide open as I lie in my bed with the covers pulled up to my nose. I fidget and begin to cry, that is, until I hear my mother’s warm voice in my ear. The softness of her whisper melts my fears away.
A whisper can offer comfort to a child scared to go to bed. A whisper can be the congratulations passed between competitors on the Olympic podium. A whisper can be a bulimic’s cry for help. A whisper can be heard in the final goodbye to a parent. As complex as, “I have something to tell you.” As simple as, “I love you.”
Whispers are the most intimate form of spoken word; derived from one’s breath rather than one’s throat. The gentle way a whisper is carried through exhaled air is a caress. The warm air exits the whisperer’s lips and enters the listener’s ear, igniting every single nerve synapse. Often times, a whisper is surprising and sudden. So unexpected that the listener’s response has become innate. The heart beats a little faster, the lungs expand, the toes curl, and the lips lift into a smile. This response is unlike any other and is universally shared. A whisper draws forth a humanistic connection that I believe unites us all intimately.
However, for every smile there is also a frown. Cruelty can just as easily slip off the tongue as kindness. Bringing hurt to whoever caught wind of the caustic whisper. I remember playing on the monkey bars during recess; amongst the laughter surrounding me, there were whispers as well. The sad thing is, although children outgrow their toys and clothes, hurtful whispers are held onto. Adults pass along gossip in the office as if it is the only way to connect with others. I would disagree. I believe the very nature of a whisper is meant to bring forth happiness and comfort, not hurt. The power of a whisper goes unmatched by any other form of spoken word because it draws forth an intimacy that goes beyond physical touch.
As I reflect back on all those times my mother whispered to me as a child when tucking me into bed, I realize that her words reached a place no hand or kiss or saber-toothed tiger could ever touch. My heart. This I believe.