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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

Be an encourager

Few things are better at helping someone overcome discouragement than spending time with the right person. Some people just lift you up. They help you to have hope or feel good about yourself. Poet Walt Whitman found such a person when he was a young man struggling to get anyone interested in his writing. In 1855 he published Leaves of Grass, a small volume of poetry. Because none of the big publishing houses would accept it, he paid neighborhood printers to produce 795 copies of it. It received little notice or acclaim from critics. And it didn’t sell.

“He couldn’t get rid of them,” said Karen Karbiener, a Whitman professor at New York University. “The price was $2, then it went down to $1, then 50 cents.”6

However, Whitman did receive a note of encouragement from someone. It said, “Dear Sir, I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I greet you at the beginning of a great career.” Who was this encourager? None other than Ralph Waldo Emerson, the most respected literary figure of the day in America.

6 Eliza Strickland, “Happy Birthday ‘Leaves of Grass,’” (accessed November 1, 2005).

John C. Maxwell, The Difference Maker: Making Your Attitude Your Greatest Asset (Nashville, TN: HarperCollins Leadership, 2006).

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