A man called 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. Bob's 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 had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob.
Small when he was 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 little girl were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the slums of Chicago. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1936.
Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas present, But if he could't buy a gift, he was determined to make her a storybook. Bob had created a character in his own mind and told the animal's story to the little girl to give her
comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embelishing it more with each telling.
Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created 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 for 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 Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distributed 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 adaption to Rudolph, which 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 Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back 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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