Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Father's Loving Gift Gives Us an American Christmas Classic

A guy named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty

apartment window into the chilly 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 was 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 and married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job

as a copywriterat 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 to

make one--a storybook.

Bob had created the 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 about?

The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The

character he created was an 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


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 the book 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 the Red

Nosed Reindeer. 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. Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a

song adaptation of Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such

popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by Gene

Autrey. "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.



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