It was another cold wintry day at a Metro station in Washington DC. One could hear a violin start to play what would have ended up being six Bach pieces lasting just over 45 minutes. As it was rush hour, nearly 1,100 commuters would pass through that station that day on their way to work. Three minutes into playing, a middle-aged man took notice of the music. He slowed his steps, took a few moments to stop and listen but then hurried off to the meeting for which he was now nearly late. Another minute passed. A one-dollar bill is dropped into the hat in front of the violinist. It wasn’t dropped actually; it was more like thrust down as a woman passed without breaking her stride. A few more minutes passed. A bystander leans against the wall to listen but was suddenly distracted by the time on his wristwatch and quickly moved on. Obviously he too was now late. And then there was one who gave his undivided attention – a boy no older than three. At the urging of his mother, he broke his gaze at the man playing the violin and was hurried away. He kept looking back – desiring to stop and hear more. Oddly, several other children would do the same – desiring to stop and listen but were whisked away by their grown-up-in-charge. In fact, all of the grown-ups, without a single exception, responded the same way – move on….and quickly.

During the entire 45 minutes of playing, a mere total of 6 stopped and stayed for any noticeable duration. About twenty people donated but kept their hurried pace – the total was around $32. As he concluded his playing and the space was replaced by silence, it was not noticed. No one said a single word. Not one clapped or gave him praise for his remarkable performance.


His name was Joshua Bell, perhaps one of the most talented musical geniuses in the world. He had just concluded one of the most challenging musical pieces ever devised on a device worth over 3.5 million dollars.

Oddly, two days prior to that cold, dreary day in the Metro, Mr. Bell sold out at a Boston theater. Each seat averaged $100.

It turned out that the Washington Post was doing an experiment – if Joshua Bell played without a title, would his talent be noticed or recognized? How well does the American public perceive beauty? Do we take the time to shut off distractions and take it in? One possible conclusion could be:

If we fail to cease movement and focus on one of the most talented of musicians playing one of the most timeless and eloquent of pieces…

How many other things are we missing?

Let us each learn to take the time to stop, rest, observe, examine and appreciate all that is beautiful around us. We never know what we might be missing!