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Did Rudolph Get It Right?

by Aleasa Word, FAACT’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

December 2022

The holiday season is here, and the beauty of it is that there’s no one “right” way to celebrate. Whether it’s Christmas in the commercial or religious sense, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or seasonal celebrations, the last month of the year can be quite a flurry of activity. Since there is so much activity, it’s even more important for those with food allergies to continue to be vigilant.

I remember watching television shows that brought in the holiday season. Our family celebrated Christmas, so I would watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I always felt bad for poor Rudolph, yet I identified with him in so many ways. He was different. He was smart and he had feelings that often got hurt because he felt left out. One day, Rudolph and his shiny red nose were needed to help lead the way to get gifts to children through the snowstorm. He realized something: the one thing he didn’t like about himself and got teased about ended up being a great thing in the end. Here are a few things Rudolph learned that can be applied not only to everyday life but to living with food allergies:  

  1. Perspective is important. When Rudolph realized that his nose was an asset, his perspective about himself – and that of others – changed.
  2. Healthy habits can always help. It can be easy to think our food allergies as a burden to others. They don’t understand why we do some of the things we need do to be safe. When the Covid-19 pandemic happened, people with food allergies were already used to wiping things down, wearing masks, and being vigilant. People have learned a lot from our community, and it’s safe to say that many people now know why we do what we do and how it can be helpful.  
  3. Being different is normal. It can be tempting to try to hide our food allergy because it makes us feel different or not included much like Rudolph, who tried to hide his shiny nose. Realizing that living food allergies is OUR NORMAL and part of what makes up the uniqueness of all individuals can help us find peace in daily living.
  4. Embrace who you are. Rudolph ultimately learned a lesson about self-confidence. He realized that he could help because he had the tools to be successful all along. Once children and adults living with food allergies realize they have a voice and obtain the knowledge needed to manage their food allergies, we can be better prepared to face the world.

Our children live in a world where foresight is an asset. They become great researchers looking for alternative foods and activities while at school, at social gatherings, and even at home. They can more easily become accepting of differences because they deal with differences regularly. They also learn to advocate for themselves from their outspoken parents who stand up for their rights over and over, even risking personal relationships just to keep them safe.

Things that may seem like obstacles will serve them well as they grow into their adult years. As for those of us diagnosed with food allergies later in life, overcoming many of these same challenges can support an even healthier well-being, including a positive image of self as we stand on our own two feet and say, “My food allergies can lead the way.”