Thanks to a nasty cold, I’ve spent the last few days without my voice. At first it was novel and somewhat entertaining, and while it hasn’t crossed into annoying or truly frustrating yet, it has given me pause to consider its worth in my life. It’s Thanksgiving morning and as I sit at my laptop contemplating what to give thanks for today, voices, not just my own fill my mind.
When we come into the world our voices are instruments we instinctively use as a means to have our needs filled. We give thanks for the strong wails of babies that keep us up at night and tear our hearts open in order to fill them with the insatiable need to care for the tiny body from which emanates the voice of a new soul. As they grow and change their voices produce giggles and squeals that delight and plant in us the seeds to stay with them on their journey.
The stumbles and mispronunciations of toddlerhood give way to the attempts at grown up conversations and connections as the purpose of our voice changes from meeting our own needs to connecting with others. Voices produce “I wuv yous” and start to ask questions like the ever present “why”? Listening to a three year-old list off every person he knows when you ask him who he loves, or hearing a kindergartener’s attempts to be a little adult when she explains things to us about how things work or what her little brother wants forges a connection between generations.
As we enter our teen and young adult years our voice takes on an attitude and a confidence. We begin to understand that this gift of a voice isn’t only there for our needs and connection but that it can change the world around us. The leash of authority that perhaps quieted our voices is suddenly loosed and we say what we mean and what we want to become. Our voices make mistakes and sometimes speak to soon during these years. They can spray harsh words and then struggle to find apologies. But this is a transformational time for our voices. We own them in these years.
As our voices age, they start to reflect our purpose. They may take on the gentleness or fierce protectiveness of the voices that nurture us and welcome other voices into the world. Parental voices saturated with love and concern help us to feel a part of a family, they soothe us and give us the courage to get up each day. They discipline and encourage with thoughtfulness and care. They fill hearts with unconditional love that envelops you whole with acceptance, making you feel like the most important person in the world.
We start to appreciate the voices in our lives that inspire us and help us be more than we thought we could be. The voices that offer confidence, encouragement and solace and those that show patience and never give in to the mean side become the voices we seek out. There are voices that always believe in dreams and ask to help and some that show vulnerability and strength as they teach us to keep going, keep trying, keep reaching, and never give up.
Later in life our voices begin to tell stories. Stories that help us make sense of our lives and stories that connect us to our past and our future. We become voices that connect generations to memories and people of the past. We create links to the voices that are no longer with us and help others feel like they knew people they never met. Eventually we all become voices that are only heard in the hearts of those we loved, but for those of us with faith, we believe our voices will all be united again someday.
Today I am thankful for the voices that surround me and for my own voice, quiet as it may be at the moment. I choose to raise it in Thanksgiving for my home, enough food, the country I am blessed to live in and those who serve and protect it. I hope that those who go without will have their lives filled with voices of hope and that we may all find the strength to let our voices reflect true good.