Although last week’s column was written shortly after Christmas, I somehow overlooked a seasonal character who is a shining example of imperfection. I left off Rudolph.
Flying reindeer are easy to love, especially one with such an unlikely success story. In the beginning Rudolph’s glowing nose led to scorn from his peers. Later, however, his bright beacon endeared him to everyone. If he had not led St. Nick’s sleigh through dense fog that Christmas Eve, children around the world would have awakened to disappointment, especially those on the nice list.
Our hearts are warmed when Rudolph’s peculiarity propels him to heroic status. It’s sobering, however, to consider that if those night skies had been crystal clear, Rudolph might have remained an outcast. He may have never been invited to join in any reindeer games.
The Ugly Duckling also had a tough start due to his appearance. He looked drastically different than the little ducks he considered family. In callous fashion they let him know he was too odd a bird to hang around with them. They ran him off without a care of where he went or how he fared.
Life seemed foreboding as the disheartened little fellow searched for acceptance. Then a hint is given to the reader of what’s to come when some lovely swans fly by. He wistfully admired their splendid beauty while having no idea he too was a swan. It wasn’t until he saw his reflection in the water that he rejoiced in what would have seemed impossible.
Hans Christian Anderson didn’t tell us if the young swan returned to visit the ducks who had made fun of him. Surely it must have been tempting to do some graceful flyovers and listen to their disbelieving quacks. I prefer to think he took the high road and forgave them, but I don’t know much about swans.
I’m not sure what inspired the story of The Ugly Duckling. Maybe it was nothing more than the product of a writer’s imagination. Rudolph, on the other hand, was created by Robert L. May in 1939 as an assignment from Montgomery-Ward and was reportedly influenced by his own childhood experiences.
May said he had been treated somewhat like Rudolph when he was a kid. What those details are, I don’t know, but it seems his early bout with misery helped bring to life a much-beloved character.
Real life stories don’t always have happy endings like Rudolph or The Ugly Duckling. Quite often, however, things turn out better than expected if we don’t give up. Or if we’re blessed by a helping hand along the way. Such a story belongs to one of my favorite writers, Sean Dietrich.
At a family Christmas gathering a few years ago, a relative suggested I might enjoy reading a daily blog titled Sean of the South. I haven’t missed a day since. I only know Sean through his writing but have gained immense admiration for his talent, humor, and insightful musings.
It’s a struggle for me to come up with a weekly column of questionable value. How someone can write seven days a week and keep it consistently interesting and worthwhile I don’t understand. It must be a God thing.
Sean’s childhood was marred by family tragedy and challenges which he didn’t always handle well. Yet through those troubles and times of insecurity, he became a writer whose enormous compassion is a source of encouragement to thousands.
He gives his wife, Jamie, much of the credit for his success. She believed in him and believed in them. She saw a man whose kind heart was so big it had to be shared.
In the story of The Ugly Duckling, beauty was discovered without assistance, but he sure could have used some help early on. Rudolph, thankfully, got a break when Santa put him at the front of the sleigh. And Sean’s blessing came when a young lady saw potential, then nurtured it with love.
We all know someone who could use a helping hand or maybe just needs a friend. The best way to go about that may require some pondering and praying. A good place to start is by focusing on the positives. And by knowing that sometimes that means looking for the advantages of imperfection.