Issue 6: Jan 2009

Would You Have Noticed?

What would happen if one of finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written, on one of the most valuable violins ever made, played for forty-five minutes in busy metro station in D.C.?  Would people stop and listen? Would they care or even notice?  Do people have the time to stop and pay attention?

There was a story in the Washington Post (and it is now circulating by email) about Joshua Bell, one of best violinists in the world.  He played as a street performer for 43 minutes, on a chilly winter morning.  He played some of the most difficult pieces ever written on a handcrafted violin made in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari, which is estimated to be worth $3.5 million.  Joshua consistently sells out concerts and tickets easily go for $100.  So what would happen in this little experiment?

Nearly 1,100 people walked by and only seven stopped for at least a minute to listen to the performance.  Twenty-seven people gave money, for a total of $32.  That’s not counting the twenty dollars that came from the one person who recognized Josh.  She later stated, “It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen in Washington.  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! I wouldn’t do that to anybody. I was thinking, Omigosh, what kind of a city do I live in that this could happen?

What would happen if a group of people were being killed by their own government?  What would happen if hundreds of thousands of people were killed, with millions more being torn from their families and homes?  What would happen if there were millions of people struggling for survival; living in refugee camps with little food, water, education, or hope for the future?  Would people stop and listen?  Would they care, or even notice? Would people have the time to stop and pay attention? For every thousand people who heard about this, how many would just keep on walking? How many would really give their time and attention to help, or would people just “toss quarters” as they go on with their busy lives?

Are we really too busy?  Are we too busy to stop and recognize what is happening around us?  Are we too busy to notice the beauty of a fine musician playing on a street corner, or too busy to notice the cries of millions in need?  And instead of echoing the words of the one lady who really stopped, listened, and asked, what kind of world do we live in that this could happen?  Let’s ask, what can we do in the world so this stops happening?

A major focus of i-Act is to help you take a moment… to stop… and to pay attention to what is going on around you.  As you get to know these names, to learn these stories, and to recognize these faces, you will at first be able to hear the voice of many in need.  But, if you really pay attention and if you really look into these children’s eyes, your soul will be forever touched, just as if you were hearing the most elegant music ever played.

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