By Dr. Tim Seelig
The holidays can just wear you out. Take heart, they’ll be over soon enough. Even holiday music can get old really quickly—like two days after Halloween (but don’t tell anyone I said that). We are always searching for something fresh or a new way to tell the same stories and tales.
Many years ago, while living in Dallas, I heard a sermon by Rev. Michael Piazza, the pastor of the Cathedral of Hope. I was so smitten with his twist on this beloved story that I asked him if I could adopt and adapt it. He said “yes,” and it’s been one of my favorites ever since. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. You may see yourself in it as well.
Rudolph, the red nose reindeer, was a pretty ordinary reindeer; at least as far a flying reindeer go. He had two eyes, two ears, four feet, and a soft, furry brown coat.
There was really only one small thing that was unusual about Rudolph. Somehow, that one thing was enough to make him different from all the rest, peculiar, odd … queer, if you will. He had a very shiny nose.
At first, he did a good job keeping it hidden. He even managed to convince himself that his nose wasn’t really much different than anyone else’s. Rudolph hoped it was just a stage and he would soon outgrow it and be just like all the others with a nice wet, brown nose. He tried to cover it up with make-up so no one would notice he was different.
But it was still shiny. Nothing seemed to help.
The other reindeer laughed and called him names. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games. He was desperate to fit in. He even went to a plastic surgeon to see about getting it fixed. Not even nose grafts could dim the bright red glow. Things just got worse.
Rudolph was misunderstood, ostracized, and ridiculed by people, even his family. Rudolph’s father was so embarrassed, he worked very hard to hide his son’s peculiarity.
Rudolph went to see his pastor for counseling. Surely he had not been created this way—perhaps there had been a mistake? He wanted desperately to be like the other reindeer. He just wanted to fit in. Maybe he should get more therapy. There were rumors that others had been “cured” of his same malady.
One day, Rudolph came to his end. He simply gave up trying to be something he was not. Through his long process, he finally accepted the fact that, no matter what he did, his nose would always make him different from the other reindeer. He would just have to play with the hand—or hoof—that life had dealt to him.
Dejected and rejected, Rudolph moved away from home—to a city much larger than the North Pole. To his delight, Rudolph discovered that he was not the only reindeer in the world that was different! He wasn’t the only reindeer with a red nose! He found that being among those like him, his nose shined even brighter—it actually flamed! Rudolph began to embrace his difference. He found a place where others like him were safe and loved.
Then one day, a foggy day, someone very special saw Rudolph and his wonderful nose. He saw him just the way he was and chose him for a very special task—not in spite of, but because of his uniqueness. It was that very uniqueness that made him special and useful. His glowing nose became the very thing that set him apart and allowed him to be the one that was chosen—among thousands of applicants.
Rudolph discovered an important lesson: the one who is scorned or disrespected or despised often becomes the source of light for others to follow when living a life of authenticity.
Because of this, Rudolph has, indeed, gone down in history.
It is a great time of year to take a look back and take stock of the steps along our own path. Those of us in the LGBTQ community can look at the thing that makes us “different” with pride and, yes, holiday joy! It is our difference that draws us together. It’s what makes us special. And, by George, we are already going down in history—and proud of it.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. May your nose shine bright every single day!
Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.