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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Here on the Island of Misfit Toys

A train with square wheels. A squirt gun that shoots jelly. A cowboy on an ostrich instead of a horse. A darling elephant who isn't grey, but had polka dots. A Charlie-in-the-Box.

For each, one can see some reason for the obvious title "misfit." But what about Dolly?

I always wondered. "A Dolly for Sue" just seemed like a perfectly adorable little red-headed ragdoll to me. Why was she there, on the Island of Misfit Toys?

And all my life, I felt a little bit of a connection to her--fitting in with the misfits, but never quite sure why.

Today, I went looking for other information related to the Rudolph special (in particular--I had just found out that all reindeer, both male and female, have antlers. I don't think I knew that before, and I wondered if Rudolph's mother and Clarice were depicted with antlers in the made-for-TV movie. I honestly don't remember.). I ended up at Wikipedia, obviously the easiest source for non-critical confirmation, and found this about Dolly:

"Dolly is voiced by Corinne Conley and is a seemingly normal girl rag doll with red hair and a red gingham dress. Her misfit problem is never explained on the special, but was possibly revealed on NPR's Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me! news quiz show (broadcast December 8, 2007). The show revealed that Rudolph's producer, Arthur Rankin Jr., says Dolly's problem was psychological, caused by being abandoned by her mistress and suffering depression from feeling unloved."

And that makes a lot of sense, and I can even see how it can bring some light into the purpose of suffering for the otherwise healthy. Why did this happen to me? Well, it happened. But maybe it isn't just about me.

Dolly, abandoned and depressed, doesn't fit in the world of the lavishly loved, valued, and happy. But note: She isn't alone either. Somehow, she made it to this little community.

I've always related to Dolly. She is currently my Facebook profile picture. I never knew the above, and still, of course, don't know if that was what was originally intended, or if the producer just as recently as 2007 got on the bandwagon for the psychologically depressed and found an application he hadn't thought of before. It doesn't really matter, though. I don't care. I still see a parallel and a purpose.

Even if Dolly wasn't able to fulfill her primary purpose, which was to be loved by a little girl somewhere, her existence wasn't meaningless. And even if, in the mental and emotional turmoil I struggle with at this stage of my life, I am never quite sure if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, what I'm made for, what I will one day know in fulfilment to be my God-given design, my existence isn't meaningless either. Nor is yours.

Imagine being a misfit and truly being alone. I've written before about the importance of community in giving comfort (see The Land of Tears). And here's depressed little Dolly, who works just fine in other ways and only wants to be loved, present among a train that can't roll at all, and all those other unique-but-not-what-you-expect characters. And none of them are alone.

It reminds me of this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. -- 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

Paul has said that he suffered to the point that he "despaired even of life itself." And yet, he lived to receive comfort and to be able to comfort others. We need one another. I have close to my heart a small band of hurting people. Of course I want to fix them. I can't. But I can be there, on the same island, knowing the pain of the something-we-sometimes-just-can't-identify.

Sometimes we know: It's THIS. Sometimes it is much more vague and nuanced--the longing, the lack of fulfilment, the wondering, the sense of abandonment, the "Where are you, God?" cry. And we just know. We can't fix it, but we can sit together, and share the understanding of this human misfit condition. We can remind one another of when our need was met, our cry was heard. We can remind that even if misfits at this point or that, we are still made by design, and beloved, and beautiful in the sight of the one whose craftmanship we are--and in the sight of one another. I see it most when one of my loved ones shares his or her heart. An honest heart, even a broken, damaged, darkened one, is beautiful.

To my beloved misfits--The day is coming when you will no longer wonder about your place, your purpose, your status. But don't doubt that even now, that is as full and complete as ever it will be. I've needed you, and by your presence on my Island, I have been comforted by you--the Father of mercies working through you to me. I hope you can say the same.


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