I was at the store the other day and was watching an old lady, cane in hand, slowly make her way across the atrium area to a door for a department store. When she reached the door, a man swung it open so hard that it would have knocked the old lady over if she hadn’t been just out of reach, then he continued on his way without even giving the old lady a glance. Several other people stepped to the side and used the other door as the old woman struggled to open it and quickly went on their way without stopping to offer and help. There was an opportunity for at least 5 people to help, but none of them did and the thing is, I don’t think that any of them even realized that they hadn’t helped. They had been so busy and focused on what they were doing and where they were going that they had simply failed to recognize that someone could use a helping hand.
It reminded me of the story of Joshua Bell and the experiment he did about this time last year. For those not familiar, Joshua Bell is one of the premier violinists in the world — you would expect to pay $100 a seat or more to listen to him play. He decided to take his talent and play as a street performer at a Metro station in Washington DC with his $3.5 million 1710 Stradivari in hand.
You would expect that someone of such talent would create quite a stir, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. For the 45 minutes he played, a total of 7 people out of the over 1000 that passed by actually stopped to listen. While the article is rather long, it’s a great read and well worth your time.
I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but the article actually made me cry and I’m not one to cry easily (in fact, I’m not sure if any other article has ever made me cry). There was something about it that I found profoundly sad — that so many would pass by too much in a hurry to listen to the beauty that was right in front of them. It also hurt because as much as I wanted to believe I would have been one of the seven that stopped, I knew in my heart that I was more likely to be one of the other 1000 that simply walked on by.
After reading that article last year, I decided that I needed to slow down and that I needed to pay more attention to the things around me. And a funny thing happened. I started to notice that there are a lot of people like the old lady with the cane that could use a little bit of help if anyone noticed.
If you get the chance, slow down a bit today and let someone go in front of you. Open the door and let them go in first, wave them ahead of you in line or yield the right of way to them on the street. Not only will they appreciate the gesture, I think that you’ll find that you like yourself a whole lot better when you aren’t so focused that you forget to see what is going on around you.
Feel free to leave a comment about the Joshua Bell article, any experience you have had letting others go before you or just your general thoughts about slowing down and paying attention a bit more. Each comment will add 10 cents to the microloan fund. If you enjoyed this post or the blog in general, please tell others that may also enjoy it. The more that comment, the more microloans we can give.