Words are the symphony that warms the skin and colors the silence.
Words can be like the sound of reinforcements coming over the horizon when we feel penned down by an adversary. They rescue us just as we use them to swaddle others in their warmth.
As we make the transition from Halloween to Thanksgiving, Black Friday and, eventually, the December holidays and the new year, we can take solace in the anticipation of words that provide warmth through the darker days of winter.
We might take a trip to Central Park, where the sound of sleigh bells from carriages around a corner alerts us to the appearance of an approaching horse, even as the animal might remind us of a city that predated internal combustion engines.
Just the words “sleigh ride” might inspire our minds to play a song we performed in high school.
Words can also convey the remarkable scents of the coming seasons, with the air carrying the mouthwatering Pavlovian cue from gingerbread houses or holiday cookies.
I recently attended a wedding where a few well-chosen words triggered an almost immediate and reflexive “awww” from an audience delighted to hear how much a younger brother was inspired by his older brother, the groom.
Reading about how important our coat donations are can inspire us to rummage through our closets to help a child or an adult become more comfortable in the frigid air.
Well-chosen words can provide the kind of environment that empowers people to see and appreciate everything from the inspirational image of a person overcoming physical limitations to the intricate beauty of a well-woven spiderweb shimmering in the low light of winter.
Sometimes, as when a friend or family member is going through a significant medical procedure or crisis, words or prayer or encouragement are all we have to offer, giving us something to do or say as we hope the words provide even a scintilla of comfort.
Words can feel insufficient to express how we feel or what we hope happens when someone who has been in the foreground of our lives for years seems suddenly vulnerable.
Simple tools which we all take for granted, words can take us to a peaceful beach with the sound of water lapping on the coarse sand under our feet, transporting our minds and bodies away from the cacophony of busy lives.
In big moments, athletes often suggest that they are at a loss for words. In reality, their words and emotions are undergoing so much competition that their brain experiences a word bottleneck, with a flow of ideas and words awaiting the chance to dive from the tip of their tongues to the eager ears of their friends, family and fans.
The coming holiday season is filled with diametrically opposed experiences, as the joy of opening presents and reconnecting with friends and family for the first time in months or even a year is counterbalanced by the stress and strain of those people who feel overwhelmed or alone.
People who work at suicide hotlines or as 911 operators can and do use critical words to save people’s lives, bringing their minds back from the brink, restoring hope and offering a comforting verbal lifeline.
We take words for granted because we see and hear them so often, but the right word at the right time can transcend the routine.
Finding words that resonate is akin to strolling into a restaurant and discovering a combination of familiar and exotic flavors, all mixed together with a palate-pleasing texture that energizes us.