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The Long Term Investment of Encouragement

by Graham Bufford

“Encourage one another and build each other up.”1 Thessalonians 5:11 HCSB

Ever heard of a book named Leaves of Grass or its author Walt Whitman? Yeah, most people weren’t familiar with either when that book was first published in 1855. Major publishers wouldn’t touch it, leaving Whitman to invest his own resources in local publishers to produce only 795 copies. The book came down as low as 50 cents…then he couldn’t even give them away.

Considering quitting his dream, Walt Whitman received a note of encouragement from someone that stated “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 wrote this note? A guy named Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Does that name ring a bell? Interestingly enough, Leaves of Grass was inspired by an essay called “The Poet” by Emerson that expressed the need for the United States to have its own new and unique poet to write about the new country’s virtues and vices –  in other words, someone was needed to detail the American experience of that time through the medium of writing.

As a result of a little encouragement, Whitman was inspired to write the first edition of Leaves of Grass with twelve poems, but by the end of his life, the book had been edited and expanded to include over 400 poems.

We can either lift people up or we can tear them down. Today, think about how your encouragement can inspire and even expand upon someone’s life, just as Emerson’s words did for Whitman over 160 years ago.

“Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,
now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light
and of every moment of your life.”
Walt Whitman
Leaves of Grass

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