I'm Just Sayin' - Lessons about life from RudolphIt was a cold December night in 1938 when Bob May’s 4-year-old daughter Barbara crawled up on her daddy’s lap. She was distraught and sobbing because her mother was dying of cancer, and she wanted to know why her Mommy could not be the same as all other mommies.
By: DuWayne Paul, Echo Press columnist, Alexandria Echo Press
It was a cold December night in 1938 when Bob May’s 4-year-old daughter Barbara crawled up on her daddy’s lap. She was distraught and sobbing because her mother was dying of cancer, and she wanted to know why her Mommy could not be the same as all other mommies. It saddened Bob and he did not know how to explain it to Barbara as his eyes welled up with tears.
Bob was grief stricken over his wife’s impending death and his daughter’s sorrow, but it also brought thoughts of his youth and he remembered the anger of being bullied, ridiculed, and could not be like “all the other kids.” He was too small to play sports and he was often called names he cared not to remember. From childhood on, he was different and never seemed to fit in.
Bob did complete college and was fortunate to land a job as a copywriter during the Great Depression. Then along came marriage and little Barbara. Cancer treatments for his wife had depleted all their savings and financial resources, and the family was left to live and survive in the Chicago slums.
Bob’s wife, Evelyn, died only a few days before Christmas in 1938. Amidst the sorrow and anguish, Bob could not afford to buy his daughter any Christmas presents, so he set about creating a story for Barbara and told it to her over and over. As it was retold, Bob kept embellishing the story with ideas and events. The centerpiece of the story was an animal character that was an outcast and a misfit, much like Bob was in his youth. The main character in the story was a little reindeer named Rudolph, who had a shiny red nose.
Bob put the story in book form and gave it to his little girl on that Christmas, but the story does not end there. The general manager of the local Montgomery Ward store heard of the book and offered Bob a small fee to print it and hand it out to the children visiting Santa Claus in their stores the following year. It was such a hit that Montgomery Ward put the book into print and distributed more than 6 million copies by 1946.
A major publisher approached Montgomery Ward about the rights to the little book for publishing and distributing it nationwide. The Montgomery Ward company agreed but in an act of kindness returned all rights for the book back to Bob May.
The book became a best seller as well as marketing deals to go with it. Bob, now remarried, became very wealthy from the little story he created to sooth his daughter’s grief and reconcile his own youth. Also, in 1949, the “singing cowboy,” Gene Autry released a song in honor of the story and it has become the second best-selling Christmas song in history; second only to White Christmas.
So what is the lesson from this little story of an outcast reindeer? Bob May learned a lesson from the story he created: that being different is not so bad. In fact, it can be a blessing. Too often we think we should be like others and not focus on our unique individuality. We spend too much time in this short life trying to be like others. More effort should be put into recognizing our own special talents and abilities and then focusing on using those God-given talents to be who we are created to be.
I’m just sayin’.
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DuWayne Paul of Alexandria is a regular contributing columnist for the Echo Press.