In the Winter 1981 interview with LEADERSHIP, Eugene Peterson said, "Every pastor involved in hospital visitation should read S>7ecinle~~l Days, by Walt Whitman" (Boston: David R. Godine).
The book tells how Whitman was sent out by the YMCA's Christian Commission to minister to the Civil War's sick and wounded. On January 20, 1863, Whitman left with the following charge from the commission: "His work will be that of . . . circulating good reading matter; visiting the sick and wounded to instruct, comfort, and cheer them; helping chaplains in their ministrations and influence for the good of the men under their care; and addressing patients individually and collectively in explanation of the work of the Christian Commission and its delegates, and for their personal instruction and benefit, temporal and eternal."
Whitman soon began to see the simple but profound value of his visits. He wrote: "I found it was in the simple matter of personal presence, and emanating ordinary cheer and magnetism, ...1