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How many other things are we missing?
Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2009

By Derren Joseph
December 20, 2009

I do not normally pay attention to e-mail forwards, but I am led to believe that this one is actually a true story. It touches on themes that seem relevant to us all in this holy season. It describes an event that occurred at a Washington, DC, metro station on a cold January morning in 2007. A friend of mine, Avery Chase, lives in the area and does remember when this happened. Those of us who have travelled to the major cities in North America and in Europe are very familiar with the phenomenon of street musicians. A man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing.

He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried to meet his schedule. Four minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk. Six minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again. Ten minutes: A three-year-old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly. Forty-five minutes: The musician played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money, but continued to walk at their normal pace.

The man collected a total of $32. One hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed; no one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the metro station, was organised by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it?

Do we recognise talent in an unexpected context? One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing? Here are some of the comments made by my friends who read this story: Derek de Gannes: Humans, unfortunately, do not appreciate God's creativity and beauty. We let life take us over, and we forget just how beautiful life is. We focus on all the negativity and we talk about it for hours. But if we count the hours we spend on talking about positivity and life's blessings, we will find it equates to very little. I do hope people read your article and ponder.

God is a good God...all the time...We just have to stop...and look. Marc Lewis: I'm amazed at how much my daughter brings to my attention, whatever we're doing. It could be as simple as an unusually blue sky, or as remarkable as the "real-life giant lady" across the street (This woman had to be pushing 6' 8," and I hadn't noticed her.) Kids, they're like a fresh instruction set from God. Racquel Pouchet: What a great story, Derren. I can relate, having lived in NYC and DC, where this is a usual occurrence. Marc, I love that "a fresh instruction set from God." As we rush around this holy season, let us not forget to remember how much we have to be grateful for.

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