Was I doing the right thing? Only time would tell. I had told no one of my decision, for they would think I had lost my mind, having worked hard all year towards this honour, and now about to give it all away.
There he stood apart from the rest, his eyes searching for even a hint of friendship on the faces of his peers. He had been born different. It was not his fault but it denied him the parity which the others took for granted.
I smiled as his eyes found mine and his whole face lit up with a broad grin. Here was one for whom life was a struggle; one born without talent, one born different, but one who still found a reason to smile.
He walked over to me, his steps springing with excitement.
“I bet you’re looking forward to the awards ceremony tonight,” he enthused.
I tried to play it down because I knew that he knew that he would never be so honoured. Never, that is, until this year.
“You might win an award yourself,” I ventured. “You never can tell.”
“Oh I’ll never win an award. There is far too much talent out there. I’ll bet you get one though.”
“Oh come on, you’re the best dancer that has ever been! You’re bound to win!”
It was true that I had won this award a number of times, but this year I had thought about it long and hard. It is easy to shine when you have talent. Everybody likes you and life is good. This one was born different which made him stand out for all the wrong reasons.
The others shuffled together, occasionally glancing in our direction and laughing. They were so unkind to him that they would not even utter his name. I had to refer to him as ‘the unfortunate one’ which was far kinder than the names they called him. When we were together, I called him my friend.
I glared back at the group who then looked away and wandered off together. I still commanded respect as one who had won the award more times that anyone else. My friend noticed the glare.
“Oh don’t worry about them. They really don’t mean any harm. It is Christmas after all.”
Even with all the bullying and name calling, he still refused to say anything bad against any one of them. That was the point at which I decided to follow through with my plan. I would go to the boss and tell him that if I won an award, he should give it to my friend.
I hesitated before entering the office. He was a good man but his sheer size frightened me. He sat on a chair, his belly pressed up against the desk and a big cheery smile on his face. He listened intently to my suggestion. I made certain not to make it sound like I was expecting an award. He sighed and spent a few moments in deep thought before he replied.
“That is a very noble and generous offer. Every year I honour the best eight. The ones who have excelled in some way throughout the year. You’re a dancer. You have worked hard and achieved a high level of skill.”
“Yes but that’s only because I was born with a talent that I enjoy doing. He has no talent but still he does his work and remains cheerful, even though he has very few friends and through all the bullying. Don’t you understand the difference it would make to his life if he were to win an award? Everybody would love him!”
I realised that I had raised my voice to a very great level and now that I had finished talking, there was an ocean of silence, only to be broken by the boss sighing once again.
“I understand what you’re saying but unfortunately there are no awards simply for being good. That brings its own rewards. Think of how hard you have worked all year for this honour, but now you want to turn it down; the reward for being good far outweighing the award for being the best at something. It would however stop all the bullying if he were so honoured.”
He stood up and moved his massive form across the room towards the window.
“If only there were a way to give him an award. If only we could find something that only he could do. If only......”
He stopped in mid-sentence and remained absolutely still for a moment, staring out of the window. Then I heard a deep rumbling which grew and grew until the very room vibrated. A deep belly laugh shook his whole body and I backed away in fear and confusion. He was laughing so hard that he struggled to regain his chair. I didn’t understand and so I left the office feeling sad that I had not been taken seriously.
The evening of the ceremony had arrived and we all gathered on the lawn in front of a temporary stage on which the winners would stand. The fog had worsened and we jostled for position to get the best view. Then the boss arrived with his notes in his hand and the names of those to be honoured. My name was the second to be called and, proud though I was to have been honoured so, I would still have swapped places with my friend. The cheering died as the boss held up his hands for silence.
“This year I am sorry to say, we have run into difficulties. It is a very dark day for our little community as we are in danger of not being able to fulfil all of our orders on time, and you all know what that would mean. I have been wracking my brains trying to think of a way out and at last I have found the one who, if he accepts this award, can lead us forward and save the day.”
The hopefuls were all looking round, wondering who was among them that could rise to such an occasion.
“This award is number nine and the greatest ever given. It is for one who is trustworthy, hard working and reliable. One who will lead us out of this darkness and steer us in the right direction. The winner of this award is........... Rudolph.