Are You Missing Something?

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Feb 14, 2009

"There are no ordinary moments." 
Dan Millman

I love discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary. And it can happen in a flower garden, an antique shop, next to me on a plane or even when I am getting my eyes examined. 

Before I tell you about a recent visit to my optometrist, I want to share a short story about a violinist. A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin on a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. 

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. 

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, continued to walk. Only a few people stopped to listen. 

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only six people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. 

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100 each. 

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an appropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context? 

And that brings me back to my eye examination. From the moment I met Dr. Gary Andrus, it was obvious here was an extraordinary man who loves life and he loves what he does. I can only imagine how many times he has asked patients "Can you read this one better than this one?" but he did it as though it was his first day on the job. 

I asked him if he always wanted to be an optometrist. His story was amazing. While growing up he was an excellent baseball player. In fact, he kind of followed in his father's footsteps, who played Major League baseball and had a short stint with the St. Louis Cardinals. His father was even inducted into the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame and had roomed with Earl Weaver, the legendary manager of the Baltimore Orioles. 

But when Gary turned 12 he lost his ability to hit a baseball. His coach tried everything to help him. One day while he was practicing in a batting cage his coach yelled, "You need to have your head examined." And that thought triggered the question, "By the way, have you ever had your eyes examined?" 

He went and had his eyes examined and they discovered his need for glasses. That experience immediately impacted him and he knew that's what he wanted to do with his life. 

In 1997 he joined LensCrafters and about 10 years later bought the store that is now in the King of Prussia Mall. He has recently bought two more stores with plans for additional growth on the horizon.

Evie had the same impression of this wonderful doctor. How surprised we were to find such an extraordinary person in such an ordinary place. 

How many other things might we be missing if we don't stop, look and listen? 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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