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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What Do You See?

Photo Credit:  Uncle Erol
My Uncle Erol captured this beautiful photo of my Aunt Edie a few weeks ago.  She was enjoying an afternoon in Port O’Connor, soaking up the warm, salt-kissed air.  She told me that she stood quietly by the water that day, just dropping tiny graham cracker crumbs, little by little.  She didn’t make a big scene.  She simply stood there, releasing bits of cracker from her hand and admiring the calm and serenity of the water. All of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, a flock of seagulls surrounded her and happily welcomed her tasty treat with open arms, uh…wings.

When I first saw the photo, I immediately asked my aunt and uncle, “What do you see?”  They paused in silence.  I said, “Oh my goodness!  Look at Aunt Edie.  Just look at her!  Are you kidding me?!  With her white hair, gray blouse, and black pants…all the birds saw was an incredibly generous, loving, nurturing…Mama Seagull!  They knew she would take care of them.  Oh, this picture is so cool!  I’m totally using it for a Sips!” (and here I am!)

Perception is an interesting thing, really.  What do you see?  What do I see?  Many times, what we see will differ.  Sometimes, what we see will be the same.  But, I want to share two remarkable stories with you today about how we perceive what we see.  And, as luck would have it, my sweet Aunt Edie is the one who sent me both of these thought-provoking stories:

Story #1:  In Washington D.C., at an arcade outside a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six classical pieces for about 45 minutes.  During that time, exactly 1,067 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a couple of minutes, leaning against a nearby wall, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later, the violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.  At 6 minutes, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.  At 10 minutes, a 3-year-old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.  The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes, the musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.  About 20 of them gave money, but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.00 that day.  After 1 hour, he finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed and no one applauded.  Only one female passerby recognized him and applauded his performance.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.  Just two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.  This is a true story.  Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:
  •  In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
  • If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
  •  Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:  If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Story #2:  One day, a professor entered the classroom and asked his students to prepare for a surprise test.  They all waited anxiously at their desks for the exam to begin.  The professor handed out the exams with the text facing down, as usual.  Once he handed them all out, he asked the students to turn over their papers.

To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions – just a black dot in the center of the sheet of paper.  The professor, seeing the expression on everyone’s faces, told them the following:  “I want you to write about what you see there.” 

The students, confused, got started on the inexplicable task.  At the end of the class, the professor took all the exams and started reading each one of them aloud, in front of the students.

All of them, with no exception, defined the black dot, trying to explain its position in the center of the sheet.  After all the papers had been read, the classroom was silent. 

The professor started to explain:  “I’m not going to grade you on this.  I just wanted to give you something to think about.  No one wrote about the white part of the paper.  Everyone focused on the black dot.  The same happens in our lives.”

He went on to say, “We have a white piece of paper to observe and enjoy, but we always focus on the dark spots.  Our life is a gift given to us by God, with love and care, and we always have reasons to celebrate – nature renewing itself every day, our friends around us, the job that provides our livelihood, the daily miracles we see.”

“However, we insist on focusing only on the dark spot – the health issues that bother us, the lack of money, the complicated relationship with a family member, the disappointment with a friend.  The dark spots are very small when compared to everything we have in our lives, but they’re the ones that pollute our mind.  I encourage you to take your eyes away from the black dots in your life.  Enjoy each one of your blessings and each moment that life gives you.  Live a life filled with love and contentment.”

I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed each of these two sharings.  They certainly left me with much food for thought.  Do I focus on the black dot?  Do you?  When I focus on the things in my life that aren’t going the way I’d wish, am I missing the beauty of the many blessings directly in front of me?  In concentrating all of my energies on what might be wrong, am I missing all that’s right?

What about you?  What do you see?

Join me in appreciating the white part of the paper of our lives.  Join me in recognizing the beauty around us.  God allows us a glimpse of His love through others and circumstances. 

The question is…will we allow ourselves to see it?

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

P.S.  I also want to wish my precious Aunt Edie an extra wonderful, sunshiny, Happy Birthday!  Thank you for all of the support, love, and encouragement in my life and with my writing.  When I see you, I catch a glimpse of Christ.  Thank you for that!  I love you.

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