If you go to the downtown area of any big city you will see street musicians. They will be leaning up against a building, playing their guitar, saxophone, violin, trumpet, or whatever. Their instrument case or hat will be lying open on the sidewalk ahead of them in hopes of receiving some coins or dollar bills from appreciative (or sympathetic) people walking by. Some of these musicians are better than others. Some are enthusiastic and entertaining; others have that ‘hangdog’ look, and you can tell they have pretty well given up on life. But they are probably hungry, and desperate for the few coins that might be thrown their way.
A while back a man quietly took his place against a wall in a subway station in Washington, D.C. He took out his violin, placed his hat on the ground, and began to play. For this day he had chosen six selections by Johann Sebastian Bach. During this sidewalk performance, several thousand people walked by. A few stopped to listen briefly, and some slowed their pace; but most of the money in the hat came from people who did not slow down at all. They just dropped something in the hat as they rushed by, perhaps out of pity, but certainly not in appreciation for the music that they did not even stop to hear.
On several occasions little children stopped to listen, but every time they did the parent would pull them on, much like one does with a dog that wants to stop to sniff at something. Maybe it was for the kids just a child-like curiosity. Or maybe, like a sniffing dog, the children sensed something special was there. Actually, it was something very special. The street musician that day, that shabbily dressed ‘beggar,’ was the world renowned violinist Joshua Bell. The violin he was playing is valued at 3.5 million dollars. Just two days before, people had packed a Boston theater to hear him, paying an average of $100 per seat.
Joshua Bell performing in a New York subway station
That day in the subway station Bell made a total of 32 dollars. When he finished, there was no applause, no standing ovation like he usually receives, nothing at all to acknowledge the magnificent talent that had just been on display. For nearly an hour, greatness had appeared in that otherwise bleak subway station, but no one noticed it. People just rushed by, unaware.
This interesting little experiment was carried out by the Washington Post, but the same thing goes on every day, everywhere, for everyone. There is greatness, beauty, magnificence, and miracles all around us, but we are usually blind to it all. The Bible says the heavens and all creation declare the glory of God, but we usually miss it.
Once in a while we might get a glimpse. The other day I say a wonderful photograph of a leaf. It was just an ordinary leaf off a tree, but the photo showed its tremendous beauty. The leaf had for the most part decayed and disintegrated, and all that was left was the intricate system of little veins going out from the center stem to the outer edges. The photographer had the leaf held up against the sun, the light was shining through the silhouetted veins, and it was beautiful. This was just a common leaf. How much more wonder is all around us all the time?!
I am always amazed to see an old Michael Jackson video, seeing his moves, especially the way he could do that incredible moon-walk. But the most amazing thing is to be able to walk at all, and most of us can do that. A full description of the actual process would fill a library. There first must be two living legs, the tissue being maintained by outside energy that is processed in the digestive system and the respiratory system, and delivered by the circulatory system. The exhausted energy must then be delivered back by the circulatory system to other organs that process it for elimination from the body. So far, this is all just to maintain the tissue. Then the movement must be commanded by the brain, another miracle, with the message being delivered by the nervous system, and the command carried out by a precise arrangement of muscles, ligaments, and cartilage, with the necessary structure and support of the skeletal system. There are a million things all must work together, all at once, in order for you to put one foot in front of the other. If there is even a small glitch anywhere in the system you are in a wheelchair or even dead.
Eight centuries ago St. Francis taught the world to see the extraordinary blessings and miracles of God in the seemingly ordinary things of the natural world all around us. The hymn All Creatures of our God and King, based on a poem by St. Francis, describes how nature itself sings praises to the glory of God, with the sun and the moon, the clouds and the wind, water and fire, fruits and flowers, all declaring the wonder of God’s creation. God has chosen to reveal himself in the ordinary. If you look for God there, in the ordinary, you will see him all over the place. Think of that the next time you take an ordinary step, and give thanks to God for the miracle of your ordinary body. And give thanks to God for Jesus, who promises an even more perfect body, one that will last for all eternity.
Psalm 19:1 — The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 139:14-15 — For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
II Corinthians 5:1 — Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
Lord, make me see your glory in every place. Amen. –Michelangelo