Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the famous 19th-century poet and artist, was once approached by an elderly man. 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.
Rossetti looked them over carefully. After the first few, he knew that they were worthless, showing not the least 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 have expected Rossetti’s judgement. He apologised 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, “Oh, 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. “Who is this fine young artist?” he asked. “Your son?”
“No,” said the old man with sadness. “It is me – 40 years ago. If only I had heard your praise then! For you see, I got discouraged and gave up – too soon.”