Joe Biden cheerfully told Americans that most of them are too thick to understand what a “supply chain” is. Naturally, he understands it thoroughly. You can see with your very own eyes how well he has handled it. Since, as Joe said, you must be wondering why so many shelves are empty, I’m here to explain. Following the president’s wise advice, I will use small words and a simple story.

Let’s begin in the good ol’ days, not too long ago, when the shelves were magically full.

The story begins in a land ever so far away, where happy people worked and worked to make Christmas toys for children in Kansas.

When they finished making the toys, they placed each one in a little box and then placed lots of them in a great big box. They took that big box and many others like it to a good and sturdy ship to sail to America. Finally, after weeks at sea, the ship came close to the golden shore of California.

High up on the mast, a ship’s mate cried, “Eureka! I spy land ahoy!” and the ship sailed into a big dock near the City of Angels. But even the tallest, strongest men could not move the big boxes off the ship.

“Oh, my,” said someone on the dock. “Let’s get a hundred people together and see if we can move the boxes.” They tried and tried but the boxes still wouldn’t move. Finally, a very, very smart person came up with a good idea. “Let’s use a big crane and see if that works.”

And it did work. The big crane lifted the big boxes lift off the ship and lowered them very carefully onto the dock.

“But this is still a long way from Kansas,” sniffed one grumpy man. “The crane won’t reach that far.”

A very smart little girl said, “What about putting the boxes on top of train cars? The engineer and the conductor could take them to Kansas?”

“Oh yes,” said her friend. “Some of the other boxes could go on big trucks, too.”

That’s exactly what they did. The crane put the big boxes onto trains and trucks, and off they went to Kansas. When they got there, another crane moved the boxes into a very big building, where lots of people opened the big boxes, took out all the little boxes, and stacked them up very high. Then lots of smaller trucks came to the building and were filled with the little boxes. Off they drove to stores and front porches all over Kansas.

And the people were very happy. The stores were happy because their shelves were full. The people who worked on the cranes, drove the trucks and trains, and stacked the little boxes were happy because they had jobs. The people who owned stores were happy because their shelves were full. The moms and dads were happy because they buy toys for their families. And, most of all, the children were happy because they knew their presents would arrive for the holidays.

When the children heard that story, they clapped their hands and cheered.  “Now I understand what President Biden meant by the ‘supply chain,’” cried one. “I’m ever so pleased.”

But another child looked puzzled. “If that’s how it works,” he said, softly, “then why are so many shelves empty? Why are people saying our presents might not get here for Christmas?”

“I’m afraid you are right,” I said. “That’s the scary thing about supply chains this year.”

“Remember when the sailor cried, ‘Eureka! I spy land ahoy,’” I said, “and the ship captain sailed into the harbor to unload the big boxes? That didn’t happen so well this year. It was a big, big mess. The ship had to wait and wait near the harbor because so many other ships wanted to go there at the same time.”

“Are there hundreds of ships waiting?” asked one.

“Yes. I’m afraid there are.”

“Why were there so many just waiting there?” asked another.

“One reason is that lots of people want to buy toys this year, so lots of ships came. Most years, there are enough people to take the boxes off the ships and put them on trucks and trains, but not this year. Remember how other people drove them to Kansas? There aren’t enough people to do that this year, I’m afraid. And remember how all the smaller trucks would come to the big building in Kansas and take the little boxes to stores and front porches?”

“Oh, I guessed it,” said one little girl. “There aren’t enough people to do that either. Is that what the president means by ‘supply chain problems’?”

“Yes! Yes, it is.”

“That wasn’t so hard,” said one little boy. “I think I can explain it to my mom and dad, even if President Biden thinks it will be hard for them to understand.”

“Good,” I said, “But do it very slowly and tell them some people in Washington promise to fix everything.”

“Will they fix it for Christmas this year?”

“I don’t think so,” I said, sadly. “They will fix some, but not everything. One day, though, it will all be right again.”

“I’m sure hope so,” said one child, through his mask. “I just wish it was for Christmas this year.”