As a resident of Anacortes it is a holiday obligation to watch the classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The reason is, the beloved narrator/snowman was voiced by our local resident, Burl Ives. He passed away a number of years ago, his wife, Dorothy in 2016. His home was sold just about three years ago.
My son painted the interior of Dorothy’s house. Tyler asked, “Who’s the wooden bust?” She said, “My late husband, Burl Ives.” Tyler said, “Never heard of him.” But he loved the movie about Rudolph when he was a kid.
I watched it for the forthiet time (at least) the other night. I was struck again by the Island of Misfit Toys. I will not be the first to draw lessons from the movie. Mine, this time, is how blessed the misfits really are.
Rudolph: The misfit due to a blatant physical deformity.
Rudolph had a nose that lit up like a lightbulb. No other reindeers did. Included in this category are the people born with some physical characteristic that is the first thing that people see. Do you have a missing leg, deafness, paralysis, cerebral palsy, or some mental defect? But there are others that are not as blatant, but dominate someone’s life. A tendency toward obesity . . . or being too skinny. A problem with your personality, such as the spectrum disorder (see the Queen’s Gambit), where you don’t understand the rules of social engagement. Being too tall, or too short.
I was twelve years old and sitting in my pediatrician’s office, when I heard the bad news. Based on growth charts, he estimated I would be six-foot and four inches tall. I cried on the way home. I played basketball and I wanted to be seven-foot tall. I didn’t understand genetics at the time, thinking I could grow taller by not smoking and drinking lots of milk. My tears would have turned to frank depression if I had known that I would never grow again, not even a quarter of an inch after that day.
I had a friend once, Tom, who was six-foot and eleven inches tall. His brother seven foot. I envied him. Then one day, while we were in a mall, just having watched a movie, he confined to me that the envied me. He hated being a freak. He said that not one item of clothing in the whole mall would fit him. Beds don’t fit him. Girlfriends didn’t fit him. Cars and airplanes didn’t fit him. While he loved sports, he never played basketball out of pure rebellion. This was Kentucky, where your worth was defined by your ability to play basketball. All tall boys were expected to play. Tom hated his life.
You can also include those who have acquired a physical trait that is remarkable, something that defines them. Accidents that took legs or arms. Severe, disabling pain. Reactive depression or anxiety. PTSD.
You can also include things like aging. We live in a society that values the young, especially the thin, muscular with thick hair. If we are lucky we will live long enough to be old. We will be seen as the old man or old woman. Our society doesn’t value age.
A physical diagnosis can also define us. Heart disease. Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes . . . or cancer. You become known as the person with x disease, not a real person anymore.
God bless the Rudolphs of this world.
Hermey The Dentist Elf: Those who do not conform to expectations.
Hermey didn’t want to make toys. He wanted to be a dentist. But, all elves make toys at the North Pole don’t they? He faced immense pressure to conform.
Have your ever made choices that take you against the tide of conformity? It could be, like Hermey, a career choice. It could be a choice of who you love or marry. It could be one or more of a thousand factors that fly in the face of social pressure. That pressure could be trying to mold you into what it says is a good American, a good Christian, or a good person. The pressure could be immense and painful, yet you decide to be true to yourself . . . not a phony.
God bless the non-conformists.
Dolly: The Rejected.
Do you know why Dolly ended up on the Island of Misfit Toys? She had no physical defects. She had made no choices that contradicted society’s expectations. Simply, Dolly was rejected by the girl that owned her.
Have you ever been rejected? Rarely, a child is rejected by their parents and put up for adoption. More commonly, a father or mother walks out of their lives. Sometimes, it is the lover, husband, or wife that finds hope in someone else, leaving you alone. Even more often it is being rejected by a friend, a school, or employer.
God bless the rejected.
The Island of Misfit Toys reminds me of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. This is what he would have preached if he had visited the island.
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Merry Christmas to all of you who don’t fit into the ideal. To those who are not Kardashians, Brad Pitts, or LeBron James. Most of us are misfits in one way or another. God bless us all.