Patrick Hughes was born without eyes. At the age of one, he could pick out easy songs on the piano. By two he could play harder songs. In
high school, he was playing gorgeous songs. When he is asked about himself, he
says “I do not have disabilities, I have abilities.” What a statement that we
could all live by regardless of our now age. He is at the University of
Louisville and he is in the marching band. Yes, I said marching band, where he
plays an instrument with his Dad pushing him in a wheelchair marching with the
band. The father works the night shift, comes home to sleep and goes with him
to school for his classes and helps him get around. He plays the trumpet in the
band with Dad as his wheelchair pusher and they keep in time with the rest of the
marching band. We all can learn from this delightful young man who not only is
outstanding in his musical expertise, but he is extraordinary in his personal
beliefs about himself. Here is another example of musical expertise but shown a
"A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was 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 1,100 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 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, and continued to walk.
A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again.
Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the
violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk,
turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other
children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 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 most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most
intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a real 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 priorities of people.
The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we
recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians
in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we
I have related many times in these articles about my blind uncle George Weinstein, who instilled in all of us which was a total of ten
nieces and nephews that nothing can deter him or should deter us even as kids.
He had no kids of his own; he loved these ten like they were more than children
of his siblings. We watched him play the piano with love and sincerity and to
live his life as if he had eyes that saw. Without sighted eyes, he accomplished
so much besides being a very delightful and caring person.
I saw my Dad come to this country at age seven from Russia with his Mom, Dad and his four siblings with practically nothing in their
pockets. My grandfather ran for a year or two a cotton mill in Savage, Maryland
which now is set aside as a historic place. Dad went to law school which in
those days was right after high school and he probably worked on the side for
He never complained about bad times, or shortage of money. He was just plain old happy to be alive, have a home, food and a bit of spare
money. They never went out and spend huge sums of money on material things and one of the biggest luxuries we had as a kid, was getting a TV set when I was
fifteen, buying a used (now called pre-owned) car Plymouth wine colored car and
seeing a live show now and then at the Ford Theatre. He was content to read his
newspaper in the evening, watch a few selected TV shows and enjoy a home cooked meal. He never envied anyone else of what they had, if it was more than him and us.
He enjoyed writing his column in a magazine, letters to the Sunpapers editors and qvelling (being proud of) about his kids and grandkids.
He hated getting a haircut, I guess he wanted to save the three dollars or so
it cost then and he always wore a necktie from morning to night to the minute
he went to bed at night. I do not believe I ever saw him without a bow tie or
regular tie in all my years of living at home. He liked to write rhyming poetry
to all of us and to members of the family that he liked. He was ahead of his
own time, he bargained with the manager of the food chains in the neighborhood
that prices should be lowered, if you bought in volume. You see, he had the
ideas of Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s long before they were a twinkle in a big
businessman’s eyes. In those days, canned goods were used a lot to warm up as
your veggie side dishes and to make vegetable soup and casseroles. So he would
talk the manager of the Food Fare and the Eddies stores in our neighborhood;
that if he bought a case of canned corn, peas, carrots etc. they should give
him a cheaper price per can. They both did and he would schlep the carton of
twelve or twenty-four cans up a high flight of stairs to Mom’s kitchen and then
he would empty the carton neatly on the shelves and he was so proud of himself
for his ability to get it cheaper. He perhaps saved two cents a can or
twenty-four cents per carton and that made him feel real thrifty and happy.
Sometimes the case was twenty-four cans and that was really hard for him to
drag up the steps since we lived on the second floor. He did it and the smile
on his face showed the power he felt in persuasion to the managers.
So any way we get pleasure, Dad in his bargaining, playing the musical instruments of Josh Bell, Patrick Hughes, the blind young man,
Uncle George or any other thing that makes us feel satisfied and maybe even
daring, go to it and know that you are special, unique, good and most of all,
useful to humanity in all ways.
Even if you ballroom dance (my passion) and you cannot do it as well as you use to do in your younger years; do it and do everything with
pride that you at least try accomplishing
it and let your mind know that it will get better the more you try.
You have no disability; you still have abilities as Patrick said so eloquently