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A while ago I read a story about an elderly man who approached the famous nineteenth-century poet and artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The old fellow had some sketches and drawings that he wanted Rossetti to look at and tell him if they were any good, or if they at least showed potential talent.

After looking over the first few carefully, he knew that they were worthless and showed no sign of artistic talent. But Rossetti was a kind man, and he told the elderly man as gently as possible that the pictures were without much value and showed little talent. He was sorry, but he could not lie to the man.

The visitor was disappointed, but seemed to expect Rossetti’s judgment. He then apologized for taking up Rossetti’s time, but would he just look at a few more drawings - these done by a young art student?

Rossetti looked over the second batch of sketches and immediately became enthusiastic over the talent they revealed. "These," he said, " these are good. This young student has great talent. He should be given every help and encouragement in his career as an artist. He has a great future if he will work hard and stick to it."

Rossetti could see that the old fellow was deeply moved and asked, "Who is this fine young artist?" he asked, "Your son?"

"No," said the old man sadly. "It is me - forty years ago. If only I had heard your praise then! For you see, I got discouraged and gave up - too soon."

The author of the above story is unknown, and this story has been mentioned in many books, blogs and seminars. For me it’s a perfect example of how much some encouragement can mean to a person who may need it in their life. We may not always know when a person needs the encouragement or we may not see the result of it, but giving encouragement may be one of the most powerful tools each of us has in positively changing our world.

A Person with a Gift that Was Never Opened

The above story always reminds me of something that happened to one of my uncles. He always wanted to learn how to play the piano. Now in his early sixties, he noticed me playing piano and then guitar one day. He looked at me with a strange and at the same time proud look. After I was finished playing he came over to the piano and started playing a little bit. His level of playing was more by ear and at a beginner level of playing. I asked him what was on his mind when he was watching me play. His response was, “I wished I learned how to play an instrument at your age.”

When I saw how quickly my uncle picked up a melody and how easy it seemed to him, as a musician myself I realized he had a natural gift for playing music. I asked him why he never started learning an instrument earlier in his life. He told me that while he was in his pre-teens and then his teens, his mother would always be telling him that he didn’t have a musical ear and couldn’t possibly learn how to play an instrument. This discouraged my uncle so much that he accepted what he called his personal “lot in life”. No one ever told him he had a natural talent for music. People would see him in musical instrument stores and in school (playing on the piano) and never say anything to him about it. At the time he was a little too shy to ask another person’s opinion about his musical ability.

Who Would Benefit from Encouragement?

What would have happened to him had someone given him a little encouragement?

Would he have created some of the world’s favorite music? Would the elderly man in the first story have gone on to paint some of the most beautiful images people would ever see? We’ll never really know will we.

Have you ever noticed something in someone else that you believed deserved some praise?

Have you ever seen a person discouraged at something good they are attempting to accomplished? What remarks could we share to uplift that person’s spirits?

Those who are lifting the world upward

and onward are those who encourage

more than criticize.” – Elizabeth Harrison

We never know how much the encouragement may mean to someone else until we give it. That someone else may be you in the future. Hey...you never know ;-) .


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Comment by JP on January 7, 2010 at 10:48pm
Gil, excellent. Thank you for sharing. As I watch my daughter grow, she is starting to gain interest in many things. For example, she tried out for the basketball and volleyball team at middle school and was not selected for both. I asked what she liked the most of the two sports. Volleyball was her answer. I put her in the car and we went to Target. She picked out her own volleyball. I called my sister (volleyball freak who has been playing since high school) and Sissy has flown out to CA four times to instruct her niece. I practice with my daughter two times per week.
You should see my daughter now. At 12 years, she is an excellent spiker and server. She will play in a summer league and make the school team next time.
Does encouragement go a long way? Yes.
Stay tuned because now my wonderful little monkey wants to be a cheerleader! Can you hear it now, "Come on dad, practice with me,"
Comment by Mike Aguilera on January 7, 2010 at 10:25pm
Gil, good story. Thanks for sharing.

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