“Why am I such a misfit?”
“I am not just a nit wit”
“Just because my nose glows”
“Why don’t I fit in”
– Ruldolph (the Metaphor) Reindeer
It’s almost December and you can bet that I am sitting here with the kids watching CBS’ annual stop-motion classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. You can also bet that I immediately thought of how the underlying message directly applies to those of us living with autism. (and oh, how I love me a good autism metaphor!)
Rudolph’s parents recognize that his red nose is different, but that he is still the bundle of reindeer they had always dreamed about. Rudolph’s mom gets to acceptance much fast than his father. Still, they want to protect him from a community that knows jack frost squat about red noses. Donner and….Mrs. Donner (that’s a whole other post *eye roll*) shy away from talking about his nose, and go as far as concealing his glow.
As plot lines go, Rudolph is found out, and a bunch of jerk reindeer peers tease him. This was made in 1964, so the adult reindeer have absolutely no problem with calling him names and ostracizing Rudy. Finally, the ultimate, soul crushing moment for any young one – Santa tells Donner (Dad) that Rudolph isn’t good enough for his team.
Rudolph runs away with Hermie ( a misfit toy that also thinks differently than his fellow elves). As they are leaving their community, the narrator said something that struck me:
“The world looked a lot more complicated…than when they were snug and warm by the fire”
Isn’t that the damn truth?!
I mean, there’s always the running gag about not having a manual to parenthood, but when you’re initially thrown into autism you don’t even have the words for the missing manual! It can feel like you, much like Hermie and Rudolph, are disconnected from your community, facing a cold unknown – but you have to forge on. Why? Because, what else are you going to do??
Hermie and Rudolph aren’t alone for very long. They meet Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snowman, and the misfit toys – they find people who each have gone off the beaten path. This new community helps the duo: they don’t judge, they offer support, and they offer their own perspective. They teach Rudolph and Hermie to embrace their abilities and to be proud of their differences.
By the end of the show, Rudolph and Hermie bring both communities together (inclusion), and Christmas is saved thanks to extra helping hands, Christmas cheer, an elf with a penchant for dentistry, and a glowing red nose.
As we head into the holiday season, remember that there will be people who may think it’s better to hide your “shiny nose”. To this I say, GLOW.