I received a different sort of rejection letter last week. A typical response is a canned, impersonal email that doesn't provide the reasons my story didn't make the cut. This rejection was a personal response from a market that rarely provides personal responses. It informed me that my story had made the final round of consideration for publication and provided me with comments from the editors, both positive and negative (mostly negative).
So the result of this rejection was the same as all others: I didn't get published. But the quality of the rejection suggests that, not only did they like my story enough to talk seriously about it, but they liked my prospects for future stories enough that they threw me a bone. They thought that by sending a personal response with some encouragement in it they might compel me to submit again. It worked! I've already submitted another story to that market.
This is a little bit of a brag post, but also a marker. Until now the only people reading my stories seriously have been friends and family. This rejection suggests that other people I've never met (editors for a professional publication, no less) took my writing seriously enough to read it carefully. That feels pretty good.