Rudolf, the Red-nosed Reindeer is such a straightforward statement that if you are or look different, others will ridicule, shun, humiliate and reject you. As you may recall, the other reindeer "laugh and call him names/They never let poor Rudolph/join in any reindeer games."
That is his life until everyone suddenly discovers that the very thing that made him different will in fact deliver a unique and crucial skill that will overcome what had been an insurmountable obstacle. Of course, "Then all the reindeer loved him/as they shouted out with glee,/Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,/you'll go down in history!"
Clearly, for some people, anyone that is different is seen as a threat.
Perhaps some people assume if something is different it must be an enemy (?)
Perhaps some people think that, since they are perfect, anyone that doesn't resemble them is less than perfect, and must be eliminated (?)
Perhaps some people think they are perfect, thus everyone else must also think they are perfect, so their differences are in conflict, and are an alarming threat to some people's own belief system, sense of self-satisfaction and comfort (?)
But some people appreciate differences in others.
Perhaps they respond to the fact that evolutionary theory rewards those species that have variety, as it gives them more options for species survival to respond more effectively to a changing world. If a species becomes too uniform, then one problem can wipe out the entire species, because all are equally vulnerable (?)
Perhaps they realize that variety enhances survival because not everyone wants the same thing at the same time, diminishing competition and allowing peaceful coexistence (?)
Perhaps they have internalized the Rudolf lesson, that the very things that make someone different may offer key skills to the team and make the sum far greater than each individual part—a central theme in romances (?)
And clearly, the trial by fire that so many live through in environments that penalize differences can forge powerful, creative and remarkable human beings.
But it is hard on the young. For the lessons we learn in Kindergarten are not pretty and many live their whole lives trying to overcome or find forgiveness for what happened then.
In an effort to prevent teen suicides among kids with gender and sexuality issues there are resources. It gets better.org or The Trevor Project are two.
The focus there is gender, but the basic issue is the same. Being different may not be an easy road, but it gets better—even for Rudolf. And adults have only to pause for an instant to think of all the people who were "different" that have transformed their lives and the world around them and value and support the gift of being different.
Here's hoping that the coming season gives us all things to be thankful for—the gift of accepting—indeed of celebrating our differences. For therein lies our strength.