It’s that time of the year that spirits are high and most people are full of a little more joy. The holidays are a special time for many, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with some hardship for some. For me, being aware of the fact that the holidays are not always a blessing is an opportunity to BE a blessing to someone in need.
And THAT is what today’s podcast is about. Even when you are going through tough times, you can be a blessing to others. And if you’re fortunate enough to have your blessings flowing over, then in my opinion, it is your duty to serve others. There’s a special story that I shared last year about this time on my Live Excellence Facebook page; it was about the how a man chose to overcome some very hard and dark times in his life.
This is a story of a man named Robert L. May. Let me take you to where he was. Robert was depressed and broken hearted, starring out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bobs wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer.
Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?”
Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob’s life. Life always had to be different for Bob.
When he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he’d rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.
Bob, after completing college at Dartmouth, he married his loving wife Evelyn and was grateful to get a job as a copywriter at the Timothy Eaton Department Store, in Toronto, during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl, Barbara. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the poorer area of Toronto. 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. But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined a make one – a storybook!
Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara 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. 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 the Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. They went on to print, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.
By 1946, Montgomery Ward had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Montgomery Ward to print an updated version of the book.
In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Montgomery Ward returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller.
Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story that he had 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 as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.”
The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back 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.
I truly love this story. Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer animated TV show has always been one of my absolute favorites. I must not be alone in that sentiment because it is still the longest-running Christmas special in television history a half-century after its debut on NBC.
The holidays are about the amazing gift of love. They’re about giving, being thankful and being a blessing. If you are someone that is hurting this time of the year, I hope you find some hope in this story of Robert May. Sometimes you have to create a fairy tale story and believe that it will come true. You never know, your story may become a metaphor for overcoming obstacles, embracing differences and recognizing everyone’s unique potential like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey today!! The road to excellence is paved with many stories and it would make my heart sing to know that you spending time with me today has in some way helped you see the gift that you are to this world.
If you’d like to see more of this story, please go to my YouTube channel Laura Doughty with Live Excellence. Thank you for joining me today and until next time, Live Excellence.