Stop, and listen to the violinist

Published 4:21 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

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It was 2007 when I saw the news story: The Washington Post hired a world-class violinist to play his music on the subway in New York City — right in the hustle and bustle of the world’s busiest place.

The skilled performer stood off to the side in a lobby where the commuters were getting on and off of the subway hurriedly, and he performed his music as if he were playing in front of thousands in Carnegie Hall. That’s where he is used to playing, and that’s how many tuxedo-clad admirers would come to hear his music.

But now he was far removed from the bright lights of stardom, stationed incongruently in a shadowy corner of a New York subway.

If you had been there for the strange event, you would have been amazed at how the subway people responded to this icon of the violinist world. They hustled about, business as usual, and most of them did not even look his way.

Hustling here. Bustling over there. No time to stop for music.

A few appreciative people would walk by and drop a dollar or two in his money cup. But even they would not stop to listen, and most barely even looked up at the lonely violinist playing in the shadows. They thought he was just a struggling street-corner musician trying to make a living off of tips.

He played for an hour; and, surprisingly, in that time he did earn $39 worth of tips. But on any given night, hundreds of people would gladly bid adieu to $500 or more to hear him play, and they would offer freely two hours of their attention. Undivided.

But the subway people just moved on with their lives rapidly hurriedly no time for a comma and surely not a period

Places to go, things to do.

Seeing the news story, immediately I thought: The lesson was not just for the subway hustlers in New York. We wish that were the case, but we know better. We — you and I — need to stop and listen to the violist, too.

We need to get up early more, and catch the sun peeking its head over the horizon.

Or watch as the wind twirls through the Springtime trees, blooms of flowers snowing through the air. By the way, are those azaleas blooming down in Georgia yet? Be sure to stop and take a picture to send to me when they do. You can always reach me at I’ll look them over as soon as I have time to check my email.

Let’s open the Bible and listen to what it says. You can begin at the fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel — or, if you like, start with the insights of Israel’s greatest poet in Psalm one-hundred and nineteen.

Laugh a little, especially with your children. Well, look at them first — I mean, really look at them. See them for what they are becoming.

Turn the television off. Put the cell phone down. Put the paper down — well, as soon as you finish reading today’s column.

Call a friend. (Hey Coca-Cola Mike, if you’re reading this, I’ll be callin’ you in a minute.)

Meditate a little, smile, read some, and think the best thoughts you can. They’re all free — as free as the opera-like music was that morning in the subway.

And, always, always say a prayer.

And when you get busy tomorrow, miles and miles to go before you sleep. Hustling here. Bustling there. Hurrying along a hundred miles an hour. Just remember to stop. Breathe. Listen.

You’ll hear the violinist playing his lovely, lovely tune, reminding you of all the good things you’ve been missing — just as heaven’s Violinist has been trying to tell us all along.