Friday, December 10, 2010

My Favorite True Christmas Story

A guy named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared 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 dads 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. Being small 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 did

complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his

job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression.

Then he was blessed with his little girl. 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

Chicago slums. 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

ceated 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

Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May

a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on

to print, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children

visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and

distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a

major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an

updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness,

the CEO of Wards 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 he

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 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!


Boo said... [Reply to comment]

I had no idea ... what a lovely father. How strange that we associate the character and song with such joy, when it was borne out of pain, but more importantly, LOVE


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