I heard the song “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” today as I was driving down the road. I enjoyed it and sang along with it. Then I remembered reading something recently about how it’s a bad song for children today because it’s really about bullying and exploitation.
To me it’s about realizing that people notice when something is different, and they all react in different ways. It’s true that Rudolph was teased about his red nose, and it’s true that his nose helped lead them in the fog.
But how did Rudolph feel about his nose? Didn’t he try to play with the other reindeer? Didn’t he just accept it as part of who he was?
Didn’t his so-called flaw turn out to be a strength?
My mother had polio as a child. She had a severe limp, but that was part of who she was. When I looked at her, I only saw a mother whom I loved dearly.
A college friend came home with me one weekend and when he met my mother, he asked me later, “What happened to her?” My reply was “When?” Then he went on to inquire about her limp. I told him matter of factly that she’d had polio when she was three years old.
She never used her limp to garner sympathy and she would tell you quickly that she was as good as anyone else. She didn’t want special treatment. She was fine.
Rudolph was fine too. Red nose and all, he was Rudolph. I don’t think trying to shield children from things like differences makes them better people. I think it makes them confused and may even cause some to be ashamed because they think everyone’s normal is everyone else’s normal. If they are different in some way, maybe something is wrong with them?
We all have peculiarities that makes us unique. I find it better to acknowledge that yes, we are different. In my childhood we valued our differences. Many went through wanting to “fit in” during adolescence, but differences are what makes the world such an interesting place. How boring it would be, if we were all truly alike.
I celebrate Rudolph’s red nose. The next time I hear the song, I intend to sing it loudly and proudly. Rudolph overcame adversity. What’s wrong with that lesson? Exploitation? That’s just a disguised way to try to shame him. He was a special reindeer and everyone finally realized it. That’s what I hear when I hear the song.
Our differences make us special.