Have you found your whistle?

September 28, 2017

I can whistle with my mouth closed. Really.

It’s the ultimate stupid human trick.

Some will remember how comic David Letterman made the search for stupid human tricks a staple of his late-night TV show. Upon discovering this freaky ability (I hesitate to call it a skill), I dreamt of appearing on Letterman to expand people’s notions of what the human mouth is capable of. There was one problem: it’s very difficult to hear it. When I demonstrate it for people, I have to get may face right next to their ears. Not everyone is comfortable with that, and it would be totally unworkable on TV, its breathtaking stupidity notwithstanding.

I love the reaction from people when I tell them of this unusual trick. Total incredulity meets my claim. “Prove it,” they command.

So I slide up real close and do my thing.

“I hear it! How do you do that?”

First, I say, you need to be able to whistle with your tongue. Then you close your mouth (but don’t clench your teeth) and whistle through your tongue in tiny bursts of air. With each gentle blow, cheeks puff up and then deflate instantly to allow for the next note. Muffled, plaintive notes try to break free, but are held captive by closed lips. Open the lips and out flows a song, a whistle touching ears and maybe hearts and lives.

That about sums up what Find Your Whistle is  all about.

Each one of us is a unique gift from God, with unique skills, desires, opportunities, and challenges. I am a whistler, while Shelby is a journalist and Helen is a politician. It’s up to each of us to make the most of our simple gift, to find, develop, and share our whistles, not keep them undiscovered or bottled up.

Back when I was five years old and my whistle came to life, I had no idea how powerful it would someday become. The same is true of your whistle. Within you resides a gift, perhaps several. Have you found it already? Have you tired? Have you touched a heart and changed a life? If not, what’s stopping you?

Think of the whistles that have impacted your life, warmed your heart, spurred your curiosity, comforted your soul, nourished your brain, and lifted you up. The list of people whose whistles have touched my heart is long. I featured a handful of them in my book, but there are many more–my parents, my sister, my best friends Pete Brown, Sofia Hubscher, and Rob Siegel. I am so blessed to have such thoughtful, giving, loving people in my life.

In my day job as a communicator, there’s an expression I use to help my clients understand the news business: Planes that crash make news; planes that land safely don’t. A plane crash garners instant and sustained news coverage. It’s a compelling combo of mayhem, gore, and uniqueness…planes just don’t crash that often. Meanwhile, every day, tens of thousands of commercial flights take off and land safely, and you never hear a word about it.

Heroism, like plane crashes, is rare–that’s why it attracts attention. But it cannot sustain us, as individuals or as a culture. Just as we need planes that land safely (lots of them), we need countless whistles making the world a better place.

For nearly fifty years, I’ve taken the most simple of skills, whistling, something that’s been around since the caveman, and used it to touch people’s hearts and change lives. It’s brought me more joy and satisfaction than I ever imagined possible. It’s introduced me to amazing people who’ve brightened my days and taught me great life lessons. It’s enabled me to celebrate life, the greatest gift of all, thousands of times.

I’m not a hero. I’m just a whistler.

What are you?

Have you found your whistle?

(Find this and other stories in my new book Find Your Whistle: Simple Gifts Touch Hearts & Change Lives.)