Depressed and brokenhearted, Bob May stared out of his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His four-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing.
Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara could not understand why her mother could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mummy just like everybody else’s Mummy?”
Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. He could identify with his daughter’s grief because it reminded him of his own.
As a child, he was too little at the time to compete in sports. Other boys often bullied Bob and frequently called him names that he would rather not remember.
From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. However, Bob completed college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get a job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the great depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl.
Yet this was all short-lived. Evelyn’s battle with cancer stripped them of all their savings. Now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn passed away 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. Still, if he could not purchase a present, he was determined to make one – a storybook.
Bob had created a character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Bob often told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.
Who was the character? What was the story all about? The tale Bob created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph with a big shiny nose.
Bob finished the book just in time to give it 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 and offered Bob a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards printed “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and distributed it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.
By 1946, Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of “Rudolph.” That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the chief executive officer of Wards returned all the rights to Bob. The book became a best seller!
Many toy and marketing deals followed. Bob, 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”. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists such as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by Gene Autry, the singing cowboy.
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, except for White Christmas.
The gift of love that Bob created for his daughter years ago was a blessing in disguise. Bob learned that just like his avatar Rudolph, being different can be a blessing.
We all have to learn to accept ourselves as God made us. All of us are different. We should never compare ourselves to others. God wants us to make use of our gifts and talents to make our world better.