A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
As the story goes, only 6 people stopped to watch. The one who was most interested was a three year old child whose mother pulled him away in her hurry. The man made about $30 dollars from people throwing money in his case, and received no applause or recognition when he finished playing.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
Video and audio of the performance are available on the Washington Post website.
“No one knew it,” explained Washington Post reporter Gene Weingarten several months after the event, “but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made.” Weingarten wanted to see how ordinary folks would react to his experiment. And how did they react? For the most part, not at all.
The story above, penned by an unidentified author and circulated via blogs and email, has been abbreviated by me. But the analogy to the Christian is obvious. Our Master is at work among us, orchestrating unmatchable events. He would gladly play beauty and purpose into our souls if we would but sit at his feet and listen. He would do it at no cost to us and in the most mundane of situations. Good grief, I must stop being so busy with my “agenda.” This idea always brings me back to the story of Mary and Martha. I always want to defend Martha. Trying to serve the Lord because someone has to step up and do it. Food isn’t going to make itself and the house won’t be neat and tidy without constant vigilance. Except of course, with Him, food very well could make itself. Jesus knew Martha’s heart wasn’t in the right place; maybe she was hoping to impress him with her service. Maybe she was a bit of a martyr. But Mary reacted to the glory in front of her and nothing else mattered. She wasn’t going to miss a moment.