Payh Blog
Three smiling women dancing in circle during picnic
May 23, 2013

How Children Always Learn: For Good Or For Ill

On a cold January morning in 2007 in a Washington DC Metro Station a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. Within the same time approximately 2,000 people passed through the station. After about 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. Slowing his pace he stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried on. 4 minutes later a woman threw a dollar in the hat on the floor before him and continued to walk without stopping. At six minutes a young man leaned against a wall to listen, but looking at his watch started to walk again. At 10 minutes a three year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him hurriedly along. The boy stopped again looking back, but the mother persistently pushed hard as the child had no choice but to walk and look back until out of sight. The same thing happened with a number of children, but every parent without exception forced their child to move quickly on. For 45 minutes the musician played. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money amounting to $32, while continuing their hurried walk. Then the musician stopped playing, packed up his violin, and left as the silence took over. No one applauded or noticed. There was no recognition at all.
Unbeknown to the passers by the musician was one of the greatest musicians in the world: Joshua Bell. He played one of the most intricate and complex pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days earlier Joshua Bell had sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 to sit and listen to him perform the same music. This true story account was arranged by the Washington Post as a social experiment about perception, taste, and people’s priorities. It attempted to answer the question whether people in a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, perceive, recognize, and appreciate beauty. The Post mused in their telling of their experiment; “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?
As I read this my own thoughts went immediately to the children who wanted to stop and to the parent who rushed them on their way to meet something in the parent’s schedule that was more important than beauty, children’s curiosity, or a valuable opportunity to teach a child something he or she may never forget; even when he or she is a parent with their own children. Most likely they will hurry their children along just as their parents did them, because that is exactly how children learn. They learn from parents as they walk with them along the road, as they sit, as they lie down, or get up; that is, parents teach as they live life! And each of us repeats what we learn from the daily walk of our parents; unless grace, repentance, and love for God penetrate the shield around our mind and heart, breaking the persistent generational cycle.
It is true that some true priorities restrict us from stopping for every such occasion to teach, to reflect, to listen, to see, to appreciate God’s creation and truth. The problem is that it is more often true that there is NEVER time. And before we know it the time for teaching and appreciating and reflecting and praising God with and in the presence of our children is passed and gone.
God knows how children learn. It is unfortunate that parents do not listen to Him when the time is truly ripe.


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