Karen and Chuck waited impatiently at the closed door that led into the living room where they could imagine the sparkling Christmas tree awaiting them.

Nine-year-old Karen murmured, “I can’t wait to get my new bicycle. I just know it’s under the tree.” 

Me, Karen, and Chuck when we were much younger than this story.

Then it was time. Both sprinted into the living room and gasped with delight. The tree blazed with colored lights. Karen’s eyes scanned over the gifts, some wrapped, some not. But there wasn’t any bike standing by the tree. Where is it? she wondered as her heart felt heavy. Trying to push her disappointment aside, she grabbed the unwrapped doll that sat on top of her pile. It was the doll she wanted—but it wasn’t the bike! 

“Karen,” she heard her mother call, “please go to the hall closet and get me one of the folding chairs.” 

“But Mommy, I’m not done with my presents…” Her mother’s warning look stopped her whine. She got up slowly. “Oh, OK.” She wanted to scream, “Where’s my bike?” as tears pooled in her eyes. Oh, I wanted that bike so much. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

She walked across the small living room to the hall closet and jerked open the closet door. Tugging at the chair inside, she pulled it out of the closet and carried it to where her mother sat. “Thanks, honey,” her mother grinned. 

Moments later, Karen’s shoulders slumped as she reached for her last present but it wasn’t her bike. 

“Karen, if you’re done opening your presents, what do you say?” her mother asked.

“Thanks for my presents. They’re nice.” But they aren’t my bike, she wanted to say, but knew better. 

Then her mother spoke up again, “Karen…” but started laughing before she could say anything more. Before she could control herself, her father had burst into laughter too. 

Her mother’s giggling subsided and then she said, “Karen, would you please go to the closet again and stand there?”

She obediently trudged toward the closet and then jolted to a stop.

There, right in front of her, leaning against the opposite wall, was her shiny, red bike decorated with a big red bow! As she stood transfixed with her mouth agape, everyone roared with laughter. 

“Honey, why didn’t you see it before?” her mother called out. “It’s been there the whole time. That’s why I interrupted you with that silly task.”

Karen jumped onto its red plastic seat that sported bright yellow sunflowers. “I guess I was so disappointed when I didn’t see it near the tree that I just didn’t notice it over here.” She paused. “But it’s here! My bike! I love it!” She ran to each one and hugged them. 

I know that story is true because I’m Karen’s older sister and I saw the whole thing.

When I get disappointed by life and even other people, I remember that story and how blessings are often all around us and yet we just don’t see them. It only takes looking outside the box to consider other ways of thinking, like seeing a bike waiting just a few feet away.

How do you deal with disappointments, especially during the holidays?