Catholic fiction for children

Excerpt from Nancy Carabio Belanger's new book

Olivia and the Little Way

Available late October 2008

to learn more and read more excerpts!

Tune in to listen to Nancy talk about her book on "Catholic Connection" with Teresa Tomeo!  Live interview at 9:35 a.m. on Thursday October 23 on EWTN radio stations!


Soon it was time to wrap up the math lesson and get ready for lunch. What a morning it had been. Olivia slipped her hand inside her uniform skirt pocket and fingered the dollar bill her mother had given her for lunch that day. Tacos, her favorite, were on the menu. That would definitely cheer her up. Her stomach growled and gurgled. She wished Mrs. Wells would finish the math lesson so they could go to lunch. She was eager to forget this morning's incident with the note and start over fresh this afternoon.

Finally, the fifth graders got in line to head to the cafeteria. Hayley and Sabrina headed to their usual spot to sit down while Olivia waited in the long lunch line, starving. She could smell the tacos coming out of the kitchen and her mouth started to water. She clutched her dollar bill and waited as patiently as she could. She glanced at all of the yummy-looking food on the lunch counter. Lunch ladies were handing out plates of crispy hot tacos, bags of chips, granola bars, and apple juice to the children who handed them their change.

She glanced at the wall next to the cash register where there were paper decorations of pumpkins and candy corn. A large posterboard hung beside them. She had never noticed it before, but then again, she didn't stand in the lunch line very often because her mother usually packed her a lunch. The poster listed names of kids who owed the lunch ladies for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Olivia had never had a school PB & J before. It was mostly for kids who forgot their lunches at home. They were supposed to pay the lunch ladies when they could, and then their names would be crossed off the list. Most of the names she didn't recognize, except one that stood out: Chad O' Toole.

Suddenly, Olivia felt that familiar feeling she was beginning to know all too well:  the voice of St. Therese.

Pay for Chad's sandwich.  It is in giving that you shall receive.

Olivia bit her lip. The sign said that school sandwiches were 75 cents. If she paid for Chad's sandwich, that would mean she'd only have a quarter left for her own lunch today. And a quarter could only buy...She studied the items on the counter.

A bag of pretzels was a quarter. A krispy rice treat was a quarter. That wouldn't be very nutritious, though. Her mother certainly would not approve of that. A banana or an apple was a quarter. She could have a PB & J herself and pay tomorrow, but she was allergic to peanuts, so that wouldn't do. And a jelly sandwich didn't sound appetizing. What she really wanted were tacos. A girl in front of Olivia paid for her taco lunch and left the line. They smelled so good! Her stomach growled again. Surely there would be no reason to—

"Yes, Honey?" asked the lunch lady, somewhat impatiently. Olivia's turn was up.

"What can I get you?"

"I...uh..." Why was this so hard today, to follow the Little Way?

"Sweetie, we don't have much time and the line's long. What can I get you?" the lunch lady repeated.

"Um...This is for Chad O' Toole's peanut butter and jelly sandwich." She held out her dollar. "And for a quarter I'd like a banana, please."

"Sure, " the lunch lady said as she grabbed a banana out of the bowl for her and took her dollar. "Is that all you want?"

"Yes, ma'am," Olivia answered softly.

The lunch lady studied Olivia's face. "Is the rest of your lunch at the table?"

"Yes, ma'am," she said.  After all, she got a carton of milk every day and her mother had prepaid for that.  Milk and a banana was a nutritious lunch, even if it was small.

As Olivia walked away toward the milk bin, she saw the lunch lady take a big black marker and cross Chad's name off of the sandwich list.   A warm feeling grew inside of her.

"Is that all you're eating?" Hayley eyed her banana and shoved a handful of cheese curls into her mouth as Olivia sat down.

"Yeah, I'm not all that hungry today," Olivia said as she unpeeled her banana. And, strangely enough, she really wasn't anymore.

Copyright 2008 by Nancy Carabio Belanger

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