Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What Do You Want to See?

Alright...I'm on vacation. Based on the last two blogs entries, I need one. Sometimes in my effort to connect the dots, I literally wear myself out.

Something fun I've done with my kids in the past that we are re-visiting on this vacation is the "What do I want to see today?" game.

So, here is how it works. First thing in the morning, gather the clan together and ask the question, "What do you want to see today?" The object of the game is for each person to name something they rarely see, that they want to see some time over the course of their day. The challenge, however, is that the "thing seen" must be seen a total of three times. No more, no less.

Several months ago, my daughter Helen set a pretty high bar. "I want to see three pink cars." We had no plans to attend a Mary Kay seminar in the next 24 hours so the apparent likelihood of seeing three pink cars before my daughter's bedtime was slim to none.

Well...I'll be darned if three hours later, two of the three pink cars had been spotted. The remainder of the day, as we went about our errands, we searched high and low for the final pink car...but to no avail...the car did not reveal itself.

About 8:00 just before Helen's bedtime, I realized I had run out of my asthma medication. (I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma in my early 20's) so off Helen and I trekked to the pharmacy. The prescription was ready for us when we arrived. As I stood at the check-out counter, Helen squeals with delight. "Mom. Look! The pink car. See! THE pink car!" Helen is pointing to a small pink toy car which is precariously balanced on the magazine rack, apparently forgotten and left there by another family.

We left the car there, but OUR mission was accomplished. Three pink cars had, indeed been seen.

On another occasion, the goal was to see three red stars. Helen was very specific this time...the stars had to have five points and the red had to be through and through. No outlines of a star were acceptable. The stars had to be solid red.

Just starting out on our errands, Helen shouts out from the backseat of the car, "Look Mom, there's the first one!" On the side of a large tractor trailer, tucked neatly into the company's logo, rested a five-pointed solid red star! I chuckle as I ponder her nonchalant approach to the game these days...as if she just KNOWS that what she is seeking will be seen. (The pink car experience must have solidified her belief in expectation.)

"Very cool, Helen. Very cool."

A couple of hours later, we are leaving one of our errand-stops. The automated doors open and Helen and I step out. A woman shouts, "Molly Barker. Stop! Molly! Do you remember me?"

The woman walked over and reminded me that she had attended a coach's training some time ago. During our conversation, Helen begins nudging me.

"Hold on a minute, Helen. Hold on." I knew she was ready to go home.

The nudging continued.

I leaned down to be eye level with her and asked, "What is it, sweetie? You are not letting up on this one."

With a huge grin on her face, Helen whispered, "Mom. Look at her arms!"

There neatly tucked away on each wrist was a red star tattoo. A solid red, five-pointed star tattoo.

Mission accomplished.

Believe me, we've been very demanding of the universe with our expectations. We've looked for neon green shoes, yellow butterflies, and purple hats. We've looked for "I love you's" which we overhear, two people high-fiving and bald men running. Seriously, when is the last time YOU hoped to see three men, who were bald, out on a run!

But I'll be darned, if every time...yes EVERY TIME we asked, we received.

The power behind the game is obvious. We see what we choose to see. The world is rich with so much wonder. When I get caught in seeing only the negative, a quick reminder to pull me out is to remember the beautiful red stars tucked away on those wrists. When I can't see anything positive in the actions of my 14 year old son, I can flip the coin and recognize his actions as those of an evolving, maturing and independent young man...a process I truly welcome.

I close with this story.

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007.

The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later, the violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes later, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes later, a 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The child stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother was persistent and they continued to walk. He turned his head the entire time.

45 minutes later, the musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

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. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? 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?

So, now it is your turn. What do you choose to see today?

(For a full recap of the Washington Post article on this topic check out this link...


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