A man named Robert L. May, depressed and brokenhearted,
stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling
His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly
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 had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to
be different for Bob.
Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by
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 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 a make one - a
Bob had created an 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 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 on Christmas Day.
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 distribute 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
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
adaptation to Rudolph.
Though the song was turned down by such popular
vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it 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 that 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.
* MERRY CHRISTMAS 2010*