Living with a disability, invisible or otherwise can leave many of us feeling excluded, isolated and wondering if our lives really matter.
In December 2009 I wrote an article and divided the article into parts. The article’s title was Traumatic Brain Injury — Facing Alienation and Isolation — Turning Confusion into Clarity. Each year, during the holiday season and Christmas; I re-post the article. In the event that you are living with a disability, feeling excluded and isolated because of your disability, may this article encourage you to celebrate who you are as an individual.
Below the article, I will include a link to the video presentation of the article, under the title Celebrate What Makes You Different and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Video Presentation
And now the article
During this time of the year, we may hear and maybe singing various carols. These Christmas carols/songs have become synonymous with this time of the year. One of these carols /songs is Rudolph the Red nose Reindeer. As a youth, I heard this carol/song sung with the thought that, “This is a happy song”. As I have grown older the words of this song have taken on a different meaning. As the song begins, we are drawn to the names of Santa’s reindeer: Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph. As the song continues special attention is drawn to Rudolph.
As I have grown older, the words of this song have taken on a different meaning.
As the song begins, we are drawn to the names of Santa’s reindeer: Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph. As the song continues special attention is drawn to Rudolph. The song tells us that Rudolph had a bright red shiny nose that some say even glowed. We are given the impression that Rudolph’s nose distinguished Rudolph from the other reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. With the next several lines of the Carol/song, we hear that Rudolph is laughed at, called names and not allowed to join in reindeer games.
Although the reason (s) why Rudolph is shunned, laughed at and called names is not made clear ― what is made clear is that Rudolph’s bright red shiny nose made him different from the other reindeer. Although Rudolph is merely a fictional character in a Christmas song, his plight can easily be identified with by individuals who have experienced similar rejection and ridicule ― because they are different from other members of the “herd”. As I listened to the song – with my new understanding – I found that I could identify with Rudolph’s experience within the “herd”.
Although I attempted to go along to get along — for many years ― to find my place and position in the herd I continued to experience feelings of alienation and isolation for being different.
As we continue to listen to the lyrics of the song we hear, “then one foggy Christmas night Santa came to say…”. In this part of the song, we hear that Santa recognized the value of what made Rudolph different and uniquely qualified to fulfill a unique need – to empower the herd and his mission. Upon reflection, I can only imagine what Rudolph and the other reindeer thought when Santa asked Rudolph “Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” What the herd had laughed at and ridiculed and scorned, Santa saw as essential to accomplishing the mission before him – to guide his sleigh.
Rudolph’s gift – what made him different – empowered him to fulfill what none of the other reindeer could hope to do. What made Rudolph different equipped him to be of maximum service to Santa, to his fellow reindeer and as the song infers, too many boys and girls.
In my experience, because I bought into the notion that I deserved to be ostracized, ridiculed and rejected – because of what made me different – I criticized and berated myself for being different. Consequently, I had a difficult time celebrating the possibilities surrounding what made me different. Subsequently, instead of feeling connected – with a sense of belonging and inclusion – I experienced feelings of alienation and isolation. Instead of using my time and energy to explore how I could use what made me different, I sought to gain the approval and validation of the herd.
I continued to feel alienated and isolated from the “herd” and from myself until I experienced a spiritual awakening. The spiritual awakening revealed to me that I could no longer afford to be distracted by what the herd could not understand or accept.
My spiritual awakening revealed to me that I no longer had to wait for the herd to recognize, accept or approve the value of what made me different. My spiritual awakening revealed to me that I needed to begin to use what made me different despite the “herds” continued ridicule and exclusion. My spiritual awakening revealed to me that a loving God wanted to use what made me different to be a blessing to the “herd”, as well as to individuals ostracized by the herd – just as Santa used what made Rudolph different to bless the herd, the mission and to many individuals outside of the herd.
In your experience, you may have also found that – as Rudolph and I have discovered – that there is something that makes you different. You may be a traumatic brain injury survivor, an individual living with a disability or you may have experienced some other kind of trauma, abuse or adversity. Consequently, you may find yourself feeling ridiculed, ostracized and excluded by the herd. In the process, you may have a difficult time accepting yourself for being who you are as an individual. As I have shared in this article, I can identify with you. But that is not the end of the story.
The end of the story is that a loving God is going to use what makes us different, as Santa used Rudolph. What makes you and I, different is essential. What makes you and I different is essential to God fulfilling a unique mission through us. What makes you and I different will be used to draw the herd to fulfill its purpose. What makes you and I different will be used as beacons of hope to draw our brother and sisters from the shadows of isolation feelings of alienation. What makes you and I different will make us leaders. What makes you and I different will help dreams live in people. What makes you and I different will empower people to move beyond the shore (s) of their fear and apprehension. What makes you and I different will give people courage. What makes you and I different will bring about the change that we want to see in our world.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Mahatma Gandhi
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” Mother Teresa
“You don’t have to be a person of influence to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.” Scott Adams American Cartoonist
“Insist on yourself, never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation, but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous half-possession…Do that which is assigned to you, and you can not hope too much or dare too much.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams and endeavor to live the life that you have imagined…you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau
You may watch a video presentation of the article, by clicking on this link: Celebrate What Makes You Different and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Video Presentation
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