Usually, I take wisdom from a reliable source pretty seriously, whether it comes from my calendar, a book, a friend, or an e-mail.
I often get e-mails from alternative health gurus, organization consultants, and simplicity experts. Often the most important message comes in the subject line.
This week I received an e-mail entitled, “Take Some Time to Take It Easy.” What wonderful advice for the holiday season!
There’s so much to do before Christmas—cookies to bake, gifts to buy and wrap, programs to attend, decorations to put up, and Christmas dinner to make.
The “to do” list is overwhelming. How can we possibly take it easy?
On the other hand, what are we missing by scurrying around so quickly?
It reminds me of a true “parable” I read in the Washington Post Magazine. The article was entitled, “Pearls before Breakfast.”
On Jan. 12, 2007, a street musician opened his violin case, threw in a little seed money, and began playing in a Washington D.C. metro station.
It was a Friday morning, 7:51 a.m. to be exact—the middle of rush hour.
In the next 43 minutes, 1,097 people passed by. Most of them were on their way to important government jobs.
Surely the scurrying middle-management executives were highly-cultured. They would pay big prices for a concert in beautiful Kennedy Center, but would they stop to listen to a street musician?
Would they recognize the quality of music they were hearing?
This performance was an experiment in priorities, conducted by The Washington Post. Video cameras and reporters checked the responses of commuters.
Of the 1,097 people who walked by, only seven stopped for at least a minute to listen. And 27 people threw some money into the case as they rushed by.
In all, the musician collected $32.17. Note the 17 cents. Yes, some people tossed pennies into the case—much to the chagrin of the musician.
For the violinist was the internationally-acclaimed Joshua Bell, playing some of the world’s best music on a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin worth $3.5 million.
A violinist who has soloed with the finest orchestras here and abroad. An acclaimed recording star which one composer said “plays like a god.” A violinist who can command $1,000 a minute.
There were at least two people who had time to listen that Friday morning.
John Picarello, a supervisor for the U.S. Postal Service, listened for a whole nine minutes. Later, Picarello said, “It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day.”
But he was amazed that other people just rushed by the virtuosic performance.
Stacy Furukawa, a demographer at the U.S. Commerce Department, recognized Bell. “It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.
“Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him! Quarters!”
In his summary of the research, Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten wrote, “If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written . . . then what else are we missing?”
Especially at Christmas time!
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.visit-snider.com
This Side of 60 logo