You may very well have heard this story–it happened in 2007 as an experiment by the Washington Post newspaper. At a DC Metro stop during rush hour, a violinist positioned himself by the entrance door and played for about an hour. He didn’t look like anyone special–he wore jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a baseball cap.
I don’t know how many people passed him by–but a lot. Most didn’t even seem aware that he was there, much less that he was playing. A few stopped…some dropped in a few cents, some a dollar or two, one person dropped in a twenty. His take for the hour? $32.17
One person who stopped–or at least, wanted to–was a 3-year old boy. His mother was in a rush and didn’t have time to stop. But as she pulled her son past, the boy kept turning around to look at the violin player. According to the story of the experiment in the Post, “…the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.”
Why the kids? What did they see or understand that almost all the adults didn’t? Again, the story says “The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.”
Joshua Bell was the violinist…a world-famous violinist who plays on an incredibe violin…and–if you’re fortunate enough to hear him in concert, you’ll pay big bucks for the privilege. Yet here he was, right in the middle of a part of the city that many people pass through…playing for free…and almost no one–no one but the kids–“got it.”
At one point in the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples that unless people become like little children, they won’t enter the Kingdom of God. What exactly did he mean by that?
I don’t think he was talking about the selfishness that children sometimes show…or their temper tantrums. I think he was talking about what this experiment showed–that we have to become open to seeing/hearing/finding beauty all around us…to opening our eyes and ears–and our souls. Yes, there is a lot of ugliness in our world, but if that’s all we focus on, that’s really all we’ll see. Yes, we’re all busy–but are we really busy with things that count?
Next time you see a street musician playing, take time to stop and listen. When you walk by a beautiful garden, take time to stop and look–and smell.
Don’t let life choke the poetry and music out…but let’s follow the example of the kids.