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Heartwarming Small-Town Romances and Thrilling Mysteries

I had a visit with someone on Saturday. I met this girl, Liz, when she was in fourth grade. I was part of a program at work called Lunch Buddies. Once a month, we spent lunchtime at an elementary school that had a high percentage of poverty-level students and immigrant children. We were paired with a student that needed attention or encouragement with their school work. My office friends and I usually stopped by McDonalds on the way and picked up happy meals for all of us. Our lunch buddies loved the toys and the special treats (it wasn’t cafeteria food). After eating, we would color or play jacks or do something useful until they had to return to class. We also talked a lot, although for two years, I had a student that barely spoke more than two sentences the whole time.
After the quiet girl, I was assigned to Liz. She was a talkative one and very busy. She told me all about what they did in class, what her family was doing, the video games she played at home, and about everything she loved to do. I hardly said two sentences the whole year because Liz was talking almost all of the time. I didn’t mind. It was better than trying to draw something out of someone who didn’t want to say anything. Liz was my lunch buddy for three years, and I was sad when she moved on to junior high school.
I moved on to another lunch buddy, but never forgot Liz. I’d given her my email address, and I heard from her from time to time. She loves to read so I would tell her about my writing, and she’d tell me about school and what she was writing or reading or both. Sometimes it would be a long time between emails and other times they came often. Through it all, we stayed in touch.
When I released my first book, Liz brought her mother to my book signing. It was so good to see Liz again. She was just as talkative and enthusiastic as she ever was, only more grown up. We get together occasionally at my book signings, but on Saturday, we got together over tea/juice and treats. Her grandmother brought her, and we all sat and visited like we’ve been friends forever. Liz is a voracious reader, sometimes reading a book per day. People who read a lot are generally good writers. She just had one of her poems selected for publishing in a school booklet. It’s a great poem that shows a lot of promise in her writing. I was very proud of her and will encourage her to keep writing.
Her grandmother told me that I’ve been a good influence on Liz. I was humbled by that. Thinking about my experiences with her, I don’t feel like I’ve done that much, other than encourage her to keep at it. But maybe that’s all a good role model needs to do. Just live in a way that helps others live that way too, with words of encouragement to help smooth things out. If actions speak louder than words, then my actions as a role model will speak louder than anything I say. I raised my kids being the kind of person I hoped they would be. They turned out to be much better than I am. I’m happy for that because it exceeded my expectations. I have that same hope for Liz. I hope she’ll become one of the best people I know, and that she’ll develop her skills to do good in this world. I love happy endings.

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