Outcomes Offered

■ Knowing that we do not always get what we want

■ Learning that happiness is more than what we possess

Once upon a time there was a princess who had everything . . . well, almost everything. She lived in a huge palace. After the king and queen, she was the most important person in the whole country. Of course, being the princess, she had everything that she could ever possibly dream of Could you imagine it? If she wanted something, all she had to do was ask and it was given to her. Being a modern-day princess, she had all the latest in modern toys. She had a specially built toy palace that she filled with Barbie and Ken dolls and all their accessories. She had the latest in computer games that were played on a big plasma screen that filled a whole wall in her playroom. And her playroom alone was as big as the houses in which some of the families in her kingdom lived. Yet despite all this, she often lost interest, got bored, or felt lonely.

At times the princess would open the window of her playroom and look down into the streets below. There she saw other kids playing hopscotch or tag, laughing, chattering, and singing.

"Why are those children making all those sounds?" the princess asked her royal nanny one day.

"I guess it is because they are happy," replied the royal nanny.

Looking down at the kids again, the princess said, "I want to be happy, too. What will make me happy?"

The royal nanny had never found herself in such a difficult position before. If only she could let the princess out into the streets to play with the other kids, the princess might begin to learn to laugh and have fun, too. Ifonly the princess had some friends with whom she could share stories, talk about her feelings, or just do some of those things that are nice to do with a friend.

The nanny even began to think some thoughts that were perhaps too wicked for a royal nanny to have. She wondered whether the princess would enjoy having a playful snowball fight with other kids in the streets, or whether she would laugh about paddling barefoot in the mud along the river bank and perhaps getting one of her pretty little dresses dirty. What would it be like for her to not worry about her appearance or what other people thought about her? But of course these were not things that a royal nanny could say to the princess and still keep her job. Besides that, the princess would never be allowed to do them, no matter what the nanny thought.

So what did the royal nanny say? She had to think of something to answer the princess's question. Looking down in thought, she saw her shoes. Perhaps there was the answer. Finally she said, "If we could find the happiest child in the kingdom, you could stand in that child's shoes, maybe even walk in her footsteps, and know what it is like to be happy."

The princess instantly demanded the king send off a whole battalion of his guard to search for the happiest child in the kingdom. "When you have found him or her," said the princess, "bring me the child's shoes immediately."

The king's guard searched and searched. The princess was impatient as the hours turned into days and the days turned into weeks. Several times every day she asked, "Have they found the happiest child yet? Where are the shoes you promised me?"

The waiting had the princess wondering. What would the shoes of the happiest child look like? Would they be dress shoes, fashionable boots, or brand-name sneakers? What color would they be? Pink, red, blue, yellow? Happy shoes surely had to be colorful. Would they be decorated with flowers, bows, or bells? Would they have flashing lights like some shoes she'd seen advertised on television? She couldn't wait.

Well, day after day went by and the princess kept asking her royal nanny, "When will they bring me the shoes?" Finally the day arrived. The royal nanny came running into the princess's chamber with the news, "Your Highness, I have some good news and some bad news."

"Give me the good news first," cried the little princess, excitedly.

"Well," said the royal nanny, "I am pleased to say we have found the happiest child in the whole kingdom."

"Then, where are my shoes?" demanded the princess, impatiently.

"That is the bad news," replied the royal nanny. "The happiest child in the kingdom didn't have any shoes."

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