One of my favorite things about this time of year is some of the movies and Christmas specials that are on television.
There’s plenty of good, classic films to talk about, but last night I caught an annual can’t-miss, the 1960s Rankin Bass, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
I love the Rankin Bass stuff, whether it’s Rudolph, any of its sequels, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, or even Year Without a Santa Claus (I can often be found singing the Heat Miser/Snow Miser song around the house and out and about, much to the chagrin of my wife.)
One of the things that somehow went over my head as a child was just how mean some of those adults were to poor little Rudolph. Even his own father who tried his best to cover up what made his son different so that he could conform.
Not to mention, Santa Claus, who was a real jerk. From the way he reacted to Rudolph after his birth, to the way he speaks to Rudolph’s father, Donner, when Rudolph’s cover-up nose falls off and his real, red nose is exposed.
“Donner, I’m ashamed of you.”
Wow. Santa, you jolly old elf, are mad that Donner tried to have his son lead a normal life? Wow, I’m surprised the Mrs has stuck around as much as she has.
Nothing like making this poor kid feel even worse about the way he was born. No wonder he ran away from them all. Who would feel loved around that?
And poor Hermie. He hates the job he’s in, yet is being told by everyone around him to conform to making toys even though he’s miserable. Why? Because it’s just the way it is.
At its heart, it’s a message about acceptance, of course and about pursuing your own sense of happiness, whether it be guiding a sleigh, pulling teeth, or whatever.
What a nice feeling inside when Rudolph, Hermie and Yukon Cornelius not only find a friendship founded in their mutual feeling of being outcasts, and the people of Christmas Town eventually realizing that different does not mean bad.
There is a sense of triumph for the little guy when Hermie gets to do something other than make toys and Rudolph gets to lead the sleigh on Christmas Eve.
All this was honestly lost on me as a kid, at least on the surface level. Now, as a father, especially, I look it at a bit differently.
Now when I watch it, I see how important it is to not only let your child now how all right it is to be different, but to encourage it. Be yourself, be different, embrace your individuality.
I hope that I can teach y son to know not to listen to the bullies around you, be they on the schoolyard, in the home, or in the workplace. You are who you are for a reason. You are special for that reason.
We are all different. If only we would all accept those differences, I think we could see what a beautiful place this world can be.