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Lessons we can learn from Rudolph

Cynthia Burton

“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose,

and if you ever saw it, you would even say it glowed.

All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names,

they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.”

I fondly recall the 1964 Rankin-Bass Christmas presentation, narrated by the beloved Burl Ives, depicting the life and times of poor Rudolph. It chronicled his social rejection among his peers, and several others, thus hastening his decision to run away from home. His escape into the unknown transpired chiefly because of the name calling and bullying he experienced. Folks, that unique, precious eighth reindeer could not catch a break!

Tormentors were aplenty. Rudolph’s surly father, Donner, insisted he wear a prosthetic nose. Donner was openly ashamed of his atypical son. Even jolly old St. Nicholas was horrified by the ghastly glowing proboscis. Rudolph’s new friend Fireball, that sported an odd shock of blonde hair, rejected Rudy when his red orb was revealed at the highly touted reindeer games, a rite of passage for all worthy young bucks. The blustery, antagonistic reindeer coach Comet, that originally praised Rudy for his astounding flying skills, immediately prohibited him from participating in any games after witnessing the shiny, noisy red beacon. The terrifying Abominable Snowman also despised Rudolph, but that wide-eyed giant reviled everyone and everything. Demanding that Hermey sing, wiggle his ears and make toys, the gruff Elf Chorale Director delighted in ridiculing Hermey in front of his fellow elves, who also chided Hermey. After all, no respectable elf could aspire to be a dentist for Santa’s sake!

The only deer who truly accepted and loved Rudy, despite his luminosity, were his doting mother and the long-lashed sweetheart of a doe, Clarice. Thankfully, adorable Hermey became Rudy’s steadfast buddy. Bullies proved to be too much for the tender-hearted duo. Thus, they journeyed blindly into the snowy wilderness in search of adventure and acceptance. Luckily, they happened upon The Island of Misfit Toys, populated with unique and quirky characters — the water pistol that squirted jelly, a square-wheeled train, a plane that swam instead of flying. The misfit toys took a shine to Rudolph and Hermey instantly. In summation, they all lived happily ever after.

What life lessons can be gleaned from Rudolph’s poignant, coming of age story? Acceptance, tolerance, courage, perseverance, optimism, gratitude, determination, patience, resolve and love. Not just during this festive holiday season, but 365 days of the year, 24/7, let us all make an effort to embrace the life lessons espoused by triumphant Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Have a holly jolly Christmas everyone!

Cynthia Burton is a Destin resident and former U.S. Marine