Some years ago I did a post on Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer. It’s a song that always troubled me, as it seemed so out of keeping with the general aspiration holiday cheer.
Rudolf, the Red-nosed Reindeer is such a straightforward statement that if you are or look different, others will ridicule, shun, humiliate and reject you. As you may recall, the other reindeer “laugh and call him names/They never let poor Rudolph/join in any reindeer games.”
That is his life until everyone suddenly discovers that the very thing that made him different will in fact deliver a unique and crucial skill that will overcome what had been an insurmountable obstacle. Of course, “Then all the reindeer loved him/as they shouted out with glee,/Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,/you’ll go down in history!”
Clearly, for some people, anyone that is different is seen as a threat.
Perhaps some people assume if something is different it must be an enemy (?)
Perhaps some people think that, since they are perfect, anyone that doesn’t resemble them is less than perfect, and must be eliminated (?)
Perhaps some people think they are perfect, thus everyone else must also think they are perfect, so their differences are in conflict, and are an alarming threat to some people’s own belief system, sense of self-satisfaction and comfort (?)
But some people appreciate differences in others.
Perhaps they respond to the fact that evolutionary theory rewards those species that have variety, as it gives them more options for species survival to respond more effectively to a changing world. If a species becomes too uniform, then one problem can wipe out the entire species, because all are equally vulnerable (?)
Perhaps they realize that variety enhances survival because not everyone wants the same thing at the same time, diminishing competition and allowing peaceful coexistence (?)
Perhaps they have internalized the Rudolf lesson, that the very things that make someone different will offer key skills to the team, and make the sum far greater than each individual partâ€”a central theme in romances (?)
And clearly, the trial by fire that so many live through in environments that penalize differences can forge powerful, creative and remarkable human beings.
But it is hard on the young. For the lessons we learn in Kindergarten are not pretty and many live their whole lives trying to overcome or find forgiveness for what happened then.
The focus there is gender, but the basic issue is the same. Being different may not be an easy road, but it gets betterâ€”even for Rudolf. And adults have only to pause for an instant to think of all the people who were “different” that have transformed their lives and the world around them and value and support the gift of being different.
Here’s hoping that the coming season gives us all things to be thankful forâ€”the gift of acceptingâ€”indeed of celebrating our differences. For therein lies our strength.
I've been contemplating this blog since it showed up in my inbox. Is it harder to be young today than in the past? I remember being bullied in high school by boys "just having fun," and I have no doubt I wasn't the only one. Did these boys eventually regret what they said, or has it gone out of their memories? It is "normal" for animals to establish a pecking order, and to have bullies emerge in any pack or herd. Often the lead animal allows bullying, could even be a bully. We are supposed to be better than the animals. I know I don't allow bullying among our dogs, since I've seen it escalate too easily into all out fighting. "South Pacific" addressed this–you have to be taught when young to hate or fear those different. At some point we all need to step away from and above these prejudices, particularly those in authority, and raise our children to rise above animals.