Too Distracted to Even Notice

What if the most incredible, phenomenal, valuable person in all of the world was right in front of you – but you were too DISTRACTED to really even listen to them?

Some years ago, on a brisk January morning, a young man wearing jeans and a baseball cap walked into a Washington DC Metro station and took out his violin. He set the case on the ground and threw in a few dollars and change as seed money. He then turned to face the people walking by and began to play.

For the next hour he played his heart out. Hardly anyone noticed. And why would they?  Street musicians are hardly a novelty. We are so accustomed to their music that it fades into the soundtrack of the streetscape. Always there, but seldom noticed.

What the people didn’t know was that this musician was part of an experiment conducted by the Washington Post regarding beauty – and whether or not people value it enough to stop and notice what’s right before them.

As he played 1,097 people passed by. Out of all of those people, only seven paused to listen for a moment or two. All the rest, simply rushed by. A few threw in a dollar or a bit of change.

His name is Joshua Bell. He is one of the greatest musicians in the world. The Boston Herald calls him“the greatest American violinist living today”. The instrument he was playing in that Metro station was a 1713 Stradivarius, worth four million dollars.

In the world of classical music he is a rock star. Concert halls around the globe pack out to hear him play. Millions watch him on television. Only three days before he had filled the Symphony Hall to a standing room audience of thousands and they listened so closely that you could hear a pin drop when he played.

But on that January morning, hardly anyone could spare even a moment to listen to the very same musician. No one felt moved to applaud. When he was done he just shuffled away, practically unnoticed.

I found it both a captivating story and an insightful experiment in human nature. But as I read it, I wondered if it doesn’t happen all the time. 

I wondered if it isn’t a snapshot of what often happens in our most significant relationships.

If we’re married, it can slowly, subtly happen. When we first fall in love, we can’t help but recognize the incredible value in the other. We are overwhelmed with this incredible man; taken by this captivating woman – and we honor them accordingly. We delight ourselves in their little beauties and praise them for their shining qualities. It’s not just that we notice, but we love to notice.

But as time goes on, little by little, we can lose sight of that beauty. The commotion of everyday responsibilities can drown out the music of their life. We start to take for granted the incredible value of the person right before us.

And this wonderful spouse that God has given to us…
Or this phenomenal child that we have been entrusted with…
Or this precious friend that we cannot imagine life without…
Though right in front of us, we are too distracted to really listen, to notice, to give them the honor that they deserve.

So, here’s a simple encouragement for the day:  I’ll bet that there is someone of priceless value in your life, who needs to be noticed.  I’ll bet that there is someone who is precious to you, who needs to be listened to.

  • What if you clicked off the TV and invited them to talk,hanging on their words like they are a treasure?
  • What if you set down the book, looked in their eyes, and told them how remarkable they are?
  • What if you acted like they are the most valuable person in the world to you?

Because, after all…they are.

“Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one!” (Ecclesiastes 9:9, The Message)