Always Real, Faith

Everyone Has A Story

I recently came across the Washington Post story of Joshua Bell, a world class violinist who agrees to work in cahoots with the Post for a story.  He positions himself as an anonymous sort of starving artist in a Washington DC subway playing for tips during morning rush hour — that is, a starving artist playing for tips with a $3 million Stradivari.  As he plays his glorious music, for which he earns millions, for which he has played for kings and queens, he is largely ignored.

The story is not new, it came out in 2007, but I didn’t see it then because at that time I had a just turned four-year-old and I was as likely to have time to read the newspaper as I was to take trapeze lessons.

Nonetheless, I came across the story on Facebook, and as you might expect, there were hundreds of comments about how awful people are because here they were in the presence musical genius and they neither recognized it nor would they take time to stop and smell the musical roses.

I, however, did not think the story was about how awful people are for not recognizing Joshua Bell or stopping to enjoy awesome violin music.  Until I read this story I had not heard of Joshua Bell and I only somewhat enjoy violin music. Paint my collar blue.

That people don’t recognize a celebrity out of context is not surprising, especially a non-Hollywood celebrity.  That the majority of people don’t recognize a famous classical musician is not surprising as the majority of people who can afford seats at the symphony are not the majority of the subway-riding working stiffs.  That people won’t stop and close their eyes and sway and appreciate musical beauty as they are late to work is not surprising either, because if they get fired, how are they ever going to afford symphony tickets?

Recognition of celebrity or beauty out of context may have been the intended story, but I thought the real story was about how everyone you pass has a story — a tragic beautiful amazing heroic unique thrilling and wonderful story, co-written with a mighty creator.

Everyone you pass has a story that is out of context.  The mom I often pass on the way to school, who wears yoga pants and drives the Mercedes, who never makes eye contact or speaks to me, who makes me feel like she thinks she is better than me — she has a story.  And if I knew her story, it might provide some context.  It might change my perspective.  I might view her differently.

The mom who is 30-pounds overweight.  The mom who is always pulled together and volunteers for everything.  The mom who is a little too loud. The mom who lets her kid wear shorts to school in January.  The mom who….

Everyone has a story, which in the subway station of life, is out of context.  And no, I’m not suggesting that we stop and take in the story of everyone we pass, because then we would never have time for those trapeze lessons.  But we can try to remember that everyone we pass has a story and that if we knew it, we would have the context to recognize the celebrity and beauty in them that God sees.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.  1Samuel 16:7


22 thoughts on “Everyone Has A Story

  1. This is a beautiful post.

    How are your trapeze skills coming along?

    * * *

    I adore you Iota – thanks for asking. I’m flying high but I still need a net. 😀

  2. So good to have you writing again! I have been amazed at how much my first impressions of people change so much when I get to know them and they end up being a “best friend.”

  3. A beautiful post and a beautiful perspective. I, too, read this article and did not agree with many of the comments. I may have just as easily passed Joshua Bell by, for a variety of reasons. What I took from the article was how children stopped to listen. Children often see something special that adults don’t see. We are all so busy and I, for one, don’t always take the time to pause, listen and look. There is a lot I can (and do) learn from children.

    * * *
    I appreciated that part of the story too, Fern. Having said that, my kiddo (as am I) is oft times easily distracted more so than observant of great beauty. 😀

  4. Thank you for a great perspective we would all do well to remember, especially when we encounter that person upon whom we want to pass judgment or the one who, for some reason, makes us feel “less than.”

  5. I am SO glad to hear from you! I miss your writing! What a great reminder – I focus entirely too much on the “me” part of the story and don’t think much at all about anything else…

  6. So great to see your blog pop up on my reader! I always appreciate your perspective, especially this one. And I think you are so right–if we only took time to really SEE people, we would probably find more in common with them than different. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Yes! I saw this story recently, too, but I didn’t think of it this way. It’s something I try to remind myself of, because I often feel out of context myself. Who knows what anyone’s story is? Who knows the kind of day they’ve had that brought them to this point? The kind of life? And it makes me want to look into people more, because everyone has a story.
    Thanks for this!

  8. …sigh…perfectly written… as usual you give such fresh, honest, perspective. I sooo wish I knew you…

    when I first began reading you, I had teenagers and I loved “watching” you and Sean grow together. Then you faded away with your own business and my life changed too but I’ve kept you in my radar and have enjoyed your random posts tremendously. Just recently I became an antique mommy myself of a new baby even tho my other babies are 23, 17, and 15!! I hope to reread your older posts and be encouraged by your excellent parenting values as I start all over again.

  9. Exactly! Even the people we know and love have their stories – which is the cause of most family conflict as well as in the big wide world. Realizing that there are more than 1 way to see things, and mine is not necessarily the right one or even the best one can make life so much easier!
    Thanks for your post!

  10. I ran across this story a few years ago (not when it happened, but not long after). You bring an interesting perspective to the story and I do agree with what you’re saying. Here’s another viewpoint for you to consider, and the thing that struck me:

    Our world has become so frantic — rush! rush! rush! — we don’t take time to see the beauty around us as we run from this to that and the other. I teach a beginners’ photography class at our local community college and one of the things I encourage my students to try to do is to slow down and SEE the world around themselves. Nature and structure and people and the way LIGHT falls on each of these.

    I’m thinking that at an earlier time, those people might have had a little more leeway in their schedules to stop and hear the music, even if only for a few minutes. I would hope, anyway.

    (Love the “Paint my collar blue” phrase. That made me chuckle out loud!)

  11. Lovely as always!

    “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and they will pinch your toes so bad you’ll pray to get back to your own”. My grandmothers favorite saying.

    I remember the story so well.
    I would not have known who he was but the sounds coming from the violin would have drew me in and made me late for work.

    The rush of life today makes us all miss some important things now and then. Even parts of our own stories. I love knowing that each of us has a story, and that God has woven such beauty throughout the pages of our lives. And forgives us when we skim read.

  12. Loved seeing something new from you! I heard about this story, but I have to admit that my thoughts on it were completely different. I wondered why an obscure “celebrity” would expect busy strangers to know who he was and be impressed by him. I suppose that the original news story was intended to pull heart strings that I just don’t have. 😉

    I agree with your point, though, that everyone has a story. It’s easy to draw people in our minds as two dimensional instead of attempting to understand them in all three dimensions of flesh and blood. Sometimes understanding them helps when interacting with them. Sometimes it doesn’t. But we should at least try.

  13. Stories, indeed. And even though some start out the same, they can end quite differently from one another.

    I’ve often pondered how easily it would be for me or any other guy to “fall through the cracks” and end up homeless. All it takes is one tragedy, like a job loss, to initiate such a downward spiral. I’ve come way too close to that a time or two.

    That thought always helps me regain my perspective on others.

  14. Ahhh, I knew you’d come back with a good one. 🙂 You’ve inspired me to look into someone’s story today.

  15. I so agree…Everyone does have a story, it’s very easy to be self absorbed and forget that. I only pray I can see people through Jesus’s eyes…..

  16. Only vaguely related, but we were recently watching something where a british film maker was tracking the lives of several people, catching up with them every few years to see where they were, ever since their 60s childhoods.

    I found their stories rather depressing, personally, though. In childhood, they all looked so bright-eyed and happy and full of potential. Now, they’re just regular ol’ people with regular ol’ problems who never seemed to really reach any of that potential. But I’d have to watch the completed film to catch the stories of how they got that way, since I guess that’s kinda true of most of us!

    * * *
    I saw that show on PBS, like back in the late 80s, it was called “Seven Up” — and yes, it was fascinating, but sad at the same time as these children who started out with so much promise did very little to actualize it. Those kids are now 56, just three years older than me! Here’s a link:

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