We live in a busy world. But busy doing what? Do you and I take time for the most important things in life? Do we recognize the opportunities that present themselves or the beauty that is constantly around us? On a cold morning in January 2007, a young man wearing a baseball cap took his violin into the Washington DC Metro Station to play a few songs. Street musicians are fairly common in big cities so this was not that unusual.
The musician opened his violin case so those passing could make donations. During the 45 minutes he played, a hidden camera showed the 1,097 people who passed by him. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing and slowed his pace and then stopped for a few seconds. He then kept walking. After 7 minutes the violinist had received a dollar from a woman who threw the money in his case and continued to walk. After 13 minutes, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him play. He then looked at his watch and walked on. After 23 minutes a 3 year old boy stopped to listen to the violinist before his mother nudged him to move on. The child continued to walk but kept turning his head back all the time to look at the musician. Several other children also stopped to listen to the music but without exception their parents forced them to move on. During the 45 minutes the man played, only 6 of the 1,097 people stopped for any length of time to listen to the music. That day only one person recognized who the musician was and put a $20 bill in his case.
The violinist that day was Joshua Bell, one of the most recognized violinists in the entire world. That day in the Metro Station, Bell played six pieces by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach including one of the most intricate musical pieces ever written. The violin he was playing on was the 1713 handcrafted “Gibson” Stradivarius violin that he paid nearly $4,000,000 for. Two days before his appearance in the Metro, he played to a sold out theater in Boston where adoring fans paid an average of $100 a piece for tickets. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post newspaper as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and peoples’ priorities.
One thing that became obvious that day was that most people were far too busy to stop long enough to enjoy the beauty around them. Perhaps it is the same with the opportunities that some see but which most ignore. If people do not take time to pause long enough to listen to one of the most accomplished musicians in the world, playing some of the most beautiful music ever written, with one of the most expensive and impressive instruments ever made, I wonder how many other things we are missing? Steven R. Covey said: “There always will be items on your "to do" list. The trick is to figure out which are priorities. You must first attend to what's both urgent and important. But to be truly effective you should spend as much time as possible doing important things that aren't urgent. Otherwise, you can spend all day in the thick of thin things.”
• Too many of us are involved in the thick of thin things
• Opportunity is often right in front of us if we will pause long enough to recognize it
• We often spend our time hurrying to get to things that are not really that important
• Many are too busy to enjoy life
Take time to look more closely at life and the beauty and opportunities that are all around. Stop, as the saying goes, and smell the roses or in other words seize the moment.