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Run, laugh, and lollygag…

February 25, 2012

I grew up in a moderately large city.  I learned to allow for travel time when going from one side of the city to the other.  I have now lived nearly half my life in a small town.  All these years of small town life and I’m still tripping over the false belief that you can get from any point to another in a matter of minutes. This misconception means I sometimes feel a “beat the clock” anxiety in the car on the way to my destination.

On this particular morning I left my house, driving purposefully, hoping to arrive on time.  I entered the school zone, slowing to 25 mph.  I proceeded slowly, up the hill, toward the school crossing.  I hoped to escape the zone with no unnecessary delays and continue on my way.  I saw the crossing guard boldly step into the street.  Taking ownership with her red octagon held high, she stopped us in our tracks.  It took a second to see the two small children approaching the crossing.  Maybe second and third grade.  A girl and a boy, perhaps big sister, little brother.

The crossing guard smiled as the girl dutifully, and quickly, crossed the street.  “Good job!”, I thought as we waited for the little boy to complete the crossing task.  The little boy was taking his own sweet time. My frustration rose.  Then my best self started the conversation.  “Of course you wouldn’t want to wait for a child.”  “Children are to be dismissed, rushed past, redirected.”  They run when we try to hold them back. Embarrass us with their over the top exuberance.  They lollygag when time is of the essence.  What are we to do?  Maybe follow their lead.


On Friday morning, January 12, 2007, Joshua Bell took his violin in hand.  Leaning against the wall, near a trash can, he played six of the most exquisite classical musical compositions.  His violin case lay open at his feet for any charitable gift from a willing listener.  Mr. Bell was playing where many other street musicians had played.  He was at the L’Enfant Station Plaza of the Washington, D.C. Metro subway.

Something distinguished Joshua bell from other street musicians.  Mr. Bell was a world renowned violinist, playing on his rare Stradivarius, as part of an experiment suggested by the Washington Post. The question?  “What would happen if one of the world’s great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?”

For nearly 45 minutes, Mr. Bell played, and a video camera recorded the event.  This musical prodigy played, largely ignored, as 1097 people walked by on their way to somewhere else.  The Washington Post writer summed up the “audience” with these words.

“There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.”  (Pearls Before Breakfast, Gene Weingarten, Washington Post Staff Writer)

The first child that was drawn to the sound of Joseph Bell’s violin was a three year old named Evan.  When his mother found out what she had pulled him away from, she laughed and said  “Evan is very smart.”  Little wonder that the outcome of the test led the writer to note,

“The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.”

I dare you to let a little child lead you back to life.
Consider adding these childlike moments to your day.

               Run for no good reason.

Embrace over-the-top exuberance.

Lollygag when you feel the
stress of your day mounting.

Then, find a child and say,

Thank you!

Read Gene Weingarten’s entire Washington Post article, Pearls Before Breakfast.  It’s a beautifully written, insightful commentary.  The video of Joshua Bell’s performance is embedded in the article.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2012 12:34 am

    Awesome post! It’s never to late to be as a child 😉 Never, never, never.
    What a great experiment. If it weren’t for children, buskers would be out of work…

    • February 27, 2012 10:39 pm

      Thanks! You have to wonder how much healthier our world would be if we all got back in touch with that child still alive in all of us. I love the experiment too. I would like to believe I would have stopped. I hope that is true. Glad you stopped by.

      • February 27, 2012 10:42 pm

        I’m sure you would stop….now you certainly will! 😉

        I usually stop to listen to violinists. My daughter plays and has busked and knowing how vulnerable it is to play for strangers (as her mom, not as the performer) its hard for me to pass them by. Also, I do love wasting time and being late everywhere I go and if a street musician can help me accomplish this goal it’s a win-win.

        • February 27, 2012 11:01 pm

          You’re not kidding! I definitely will stop from now on. 🙂 I, too have a tendency to walk to my own clock. I’m sure that has driven a few people crazy, but it does make stopping to smell the roses a little more doable.

  2. February 26, 2012 3:17 pm

    My wife an I have this conversation often, as our two grandchildren are terrific reminders of this. To a child all the world is love, we are taught not to love. I remember the very last line in the series “Life” – We are taught that one plus one equals two, we learn to be false, one plus one equals one” Children do know this truth … What a great post. Thank you …

    • February 27, 2012 10:43 pm

      Aren’t grandchildren wonderful teachers and coaches? Without the weight of parenting, it seems we can just engage with and observe our grandchildren. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

  3. February 26, 2012 6:42 pm

    I have been thinking of how my adult behavior differs from when I was a child. I was, admittedly, a very odd little girl, but I was easily entertained and developed my own way of entertaining myself. Your post is brilliant. We are not usually ‘improved’ by the aging process, are we?

    I’ve been thinking about how odd it is to find I’m ‘old’ now. For the most part I like it. The parts I don’t like might be the parts I’ve given up and should have maintained, instead. Hmmm Thank you. I’ll be thinking.

    • February 27, 2012 10:55 pm

      You’re not kidding about the risk of “not being ‘improved’ by the aging process”. I often wonder how much that process is concrete and unchangeable, and how much it comes to pass because of the “reality” we accept as ours. The down side of “if I think it, I become it”.

      I keep trying to remind myself that a certain freedom to “just be” comes with aging. After all, what do we have left to lose by just being ourselves.

      I always enjoy your thoughts, Heidi. Thanks!

  4. February 28, 2012 8:26 am

    I love this. It’s fantastic. And I agree. I think there is too much adulthood and not enough of the act of embracing our inner children.

    • March 5, 2012 11:25 pm

      Thanks for joining the conversation. It is a shame that we seem to think that leaving our childhood is a requirement of growing up. If we renewed connection with the child inside, I think we would discover the doorway to healthy adulthood.

      • March 8, 2012 9:56 am

        Agreed. I recently read an article about productivity in the workplace. Of course, there is no recess at work. By why not? A group of researchers put it to the test. Give the workers a half an hour to goof off in the middle of the day. The results were astounding. Productivity increased at least two fold, and employee morale was through the roof!

        I believe this. My husband works for a very button down kind of company. People in the graphics department are encouraged to goof off with photo editing software, because they noticed that it increases the creativity and improves skill. Of course, these “joke” photos get passed around. And some of it is poking fun at each other.

        They are very liberal about language, even if they aren’t liberal dress. I’ve seen inter-department emails with all kinds of swearing in them. No one finds it offensive. In fact, they are amused, and relieved that the place is so relaxed.

        If these things aren’t proof that adults need kid time, I don’t know what is.

        If this isn’t evidence that we all need some childhood, then I don’t know what is.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    March 4, 2012 11:11 pm

    Lollygag-ing is ohhh so fun. I wish I had more time to do more of it.

    • March 5, 2012 11:27 pm

      We would probably be shocked to find that lollygagging is key ingredient to a balanced, healthy life. And it is great fun. 🙂

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