Are You Grateful For All The Beauty Around You?

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 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly, he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3-year-old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes, the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where 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?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

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?

Be Well.
The Gratitude Guru


  1. Brad on February 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I grew up in Seattle in a house that had a million dollar view. Every morning for more than 18 years I would awaken to an ever-changing view of the Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains (at least when they weren’t totally obscured by the clouds!)

    I enjoyed and appreciated that view, and on those days when the fog was thick and obscured it from my gaze, I missed it.

    But even on those foggy days there was an opportunity for appreciation – my gaze shifted from the grandeur of the overall beauty in front of me to the closer ghostlike outlines of the trees in the foreground and the plants in the yard. Those were the days that reminded me that even when grandeur of the overall view was unavailable to me, by looking closer beauty could still readily be found.

    How many times in our lives have we found the “fog obscuring our view” and missed the opportunity to see a different type of beauty right there in front of us?

    Thanks for sharing this post, Paul. It’s a great reminder (to use an old cliche) to “stop and smell the roses.”

  2. Moly on February 18, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    This was just a wow story. Thank you very much for sharing. Yes, this is our sad reality. That’s probably why the older generations had more fun in their time. Life has become too fast for us and we can’t seem to know how to pause even to listen to a talented musician.

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