We all know the 1939 song. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.
Twenty-five later in 1964, the song lyrics provided the plot for the ever-popular holiday television show of the same name.
Then one foggy Christmas eve Santa came to say.
Rudolph with your nose so bright won’t you guide my sleigh tonight.
Recently, some people bashed this classic as out-dated and insensitive to those who have differences.
Maybe. Maybe not.
When one of my adult sons pulled out a 20-year-old “Rudolph” VHS tape, I was eager to hear his reaction.
That’s because Andrew’s lived his entire life with daily challenges from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and early childhood trauma – and the resulting stigma.
Unfortunately, those unpleasant feelings haven’t gone out of date. And let’s be real. They are alive in well in every community.
He is Rudolph too.
Sure, society as a whole has made tremendous strides in recognizing individuals of all abilities – but a majority of people haven’t fully embraced inclusion. Lots of lip service.
And lots of pity – along with bullying. Usually subtle and hard for outsiders to detect. Yet sometimes physically aggressive, as an ugly locker room incident at an Indianapolis Catholic high school reminds us.
The bullies’ target was a student with Down syndrome.
He is Rudolph too.
Following Andrew’s recent viewing, he and I engaged in conversation. His comments ring true. They give perspective from one who knows.
I didn’t like the reindeer coach excluding Rudolph.
Andrew is highly visual and notices everything – even when some are certain he doesn’t.
Coaches and other professionals over the years have excluded him. They assumed that he had limited or no ability.
Making him feel like an extra.
Hermie (the elf wanting to a dentist) was nice to Rudolph.
Andrew never forgets a kind gesture. To this day he still talks about a girl named Wendy who took time every day in second grade to talk to him.
Be kind to Andrew, and you’ll have a friend for life.
Rudolph wanted to help the misfit toys.
My son values the support that he’s received. He doesn’t take it for granted.
Now he wants “others like me to have the same support that people gave me.” Reaching out and embracing the underdog is important to him. And he does so readily.
I like the ending. Everyone accepted and respected Rudolph.
Like Rudolph, Andrew has “gifts” to share. And amazingly, he’s never been one to hold a grudge – similar to his peers in the disability community. An adversary-turned-friend will always be a friend.
In other words, Andrew saw himself in Rudolph.
I am Rudolph too.
Fifty-five years later the story retains its value in my opinion. It portrays true-to-life situations – more than a lot of people want to admit. And it offers a large dose of sincerity through Burl Ives as the snowman narrator.
Moroever, Rudolph gave my son hope each of the 20+ times he watched.
It reinforced his identity. It validated his emotions.
Most importantly, he saw that people can change for the better – and should be embraced.
Respect breeds more respect – as Rudolph shows and Andrew knows.
And you’ll do down in history. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page NoLimitsAndrew – Andrew Peterson
To watch Andrew’s amazing ESPN 14-minute documentary, click here. Andrew Peterson ESPN Documentary