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Pearls Before Breakfast

14-Jun-2018

One morning in April 2007 during the morning rush hour, a young man entered L’Enfant Plaza Station in the Washington D.C. subway. There was nothing remarkable about how he looked, a youngish guy casually dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. 


Taking up his place against a wall at the top of an escalator he took a violin from a small case and threw in a few dollars and change as seed money. He played for around 45 minutes to a restless conveyor belt of people—over 1,000 in the time he was there. 


As he played, the harried herd blew past him, only a small boy lingering for a few minutes before his mother impatiently grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the escalator. The few who did give money tended to toss it in the case on the run - more an expression of guilt than appreciation. 


When he finished the young man collected his money, packed away his violin and left the station. No-one applauded; no-one noticed. For his labours he had earned $32.17, not including the seed money.


What the cultured crowd of largely federal government workers were unaware of that morning was that the young fiddler in the Metro was Joshua Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world. 
He played some of the most complex and elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made—a Stradivarius worth $3.5 million. 


A few days earlier he had played to a capacity audience at Boston’s Symphony Hall with people paying upwards of $100 per ticket. But on that non-descript Friday morning he was just another struggler competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work. 


Bell’s impromptu performance in the Metro was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment to see if, in a mundane setting at an inconvenient time, beauty would transcend. 


It posed the poignant question—do we perceive beauty in unexpected places? 


So what is the lesson for your family? 


The great lesson for me was, “In the rush and bustle of life we need to take time to smell the flowers.”