Bob May, depressed and broken-hearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.
His 4-year-old girl Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home. Why she couldn’t play with her, tuck her in bed, or even give her a hug. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and said, “Why isn’t mommy just like everybody else’s mommy?”
Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Barbra’s haunting question brought waves of grief and anger. It had been the story of Bob’s life.
Life always had to be different for Bob. Small and frail as a child, Bob was often bullied by other boys. They called names. He was too small to play sports. From childhood, Bob was different. He never seemed to fit in.
Bob did complete college. He married his loving wife, Evelyn. And he was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. He was also blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived.
Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings. So Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room flat in the Chicago slums.
Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift. He decided if he couldn’t buy a gift, he would make one – a storybook! Bob created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to his daughter. Hoping to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.
Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was.What was the name of the character? Rudolph, a little reindeer with a big shiny nose.
Bob finished the book just in time to present to his little girl on Christmas day. But the story doesn’t end there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook. He then offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Ward’s went on to print the storybook and distributed it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. They called it “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. By 1946 Ward’s had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph.
Later that year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Ward. They wished to print an updated version of the book. But, in an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Ward’s returned all rights back to Bob May. The book soon became a best seller. Then toy and marketing deals followed. Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.
But the story doesn’t end there either. Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. The song was turned down by popular vocalists Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore. However, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949. It became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas”. May’s gift of love created for his daughter, returned to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.
Dear Father, thank you for making me different from everyone else. Please help me to accept myself and appreciate my differences. Please help me to use them to benefit others. Amen.