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  • Writer's pictureCraig Birchfield

The Beauty We Miss

This is a very interesting true story. A while back an average looking young man was playing violin in a train station in Washington DC. It was a cold winter morning and the man was busking – playing for change and small bills. He didn’t create much of a stir – people do this kind of thing all the time. I am sure that you have seen them. Some are more talented than others but they usually all play with verve. Several thousand people passed through this particular station every day so many heard him play as they walked by but not many stopped. His take from the morning amounted to about $32 – not bad for busking. Most of the money was from people scurrying by on their way to work and dropping it quickly in his case. Only a total of six people actually stopped and listened for more than a few seconds. That is a shame because the man was actually quite good. He completed six pieces by Bach and put away his violin. Few noticed and no one applauded or congratulated him. The people with their hidden cameras put away their equipment as well. You see, this was a set up by the Washington Post. The young man was Josh Bell – considered one of the very finest violinists in the entire world and he was performing difficult pieces on a multi-million dollar Stradivarius. Several days earlier he had performed to a sold-out audience in Boston where tickets averaged about $100. See the video here:

What can we take away from this? We’ve all heard the saying, “take time to stop and smell the flowers” but I think few really take it to heart. How much beauty do we miss because we have our set agendas and we are consumed with our own lives? Or are we so jaded that we don’t want to take time to appreciate someone’s talent unless we think that they are “one of the greats”. Artists love to talk about what they are doing. In a world where we often feel isolated and cut off from each other it is so easy to offer a kind word to someone who is trying to make the world a better place with their art, or just earn a few dollars by performing. You never know how much you will brighten their day and you just might meet a very interesting person. My wife Roxanne, who is also a musician, and I were in a little walk-down café in Slovakia in central Europe. There were maybe three or four other occupied tables in the restaurant. A nice little combo was playing which included a couple fine musicians on violin and hammered dulcimer. We clapped after each piece and seemed to be the only ones taking any notice of the live music. The proprietor came over to our table beaming with pride and greeted us warmly. The violinist was his son. You just never know.

Keep practicing,


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