Out of curiosity, folks will sometimes ask who is an inspiration or hero to me. Since I rarely think in those terms, I have to stop and think about that answer.
Without fail, I always find that the ones who have inspired me most were common folks with few, if any, uncommon traits or accomplishments. Parents, teachers and others who offered a kind word, encouragement or wisdom when it was most needed are the ones who stand out most in my mind.
But now, I have found a hero, and from now forward, whenever anyone asks that question, I will immediately reply, "Sandy Mary Thompson."
I feel fairly certain that you have never heard of Sandy Mary Thompson for she isn't famous or renowned for anything in particular. This is, most likely, the first time her name has appeared in the newspaper and I know that she has never been discussed on any of television's hot-topics shows, nor do bloggers pound out opinions about her.
Sandy Mary, by the grace of God, good genetics, good decisions or a combination of all, has accomplished a life that awes me. This awe comes from a woman who has seen many incredible people and feats up close and personal. Oh, but that Sandy Mary, she's got life down pat. She's my hero.
First of all, Sandy Mary found the perfect man for her in the first and only boy she ever kissed. She was 19. They married, and now 30 years later, they're still as happy as happy can be. As a side note, they're both just as handsome and pretty as they were all those years ago.
"That is absolutely amazing," I said to her. "How can that possibly happen? Some women date all their lives and never find the perfect man."
She shrugged and smiled big. "I know. It's pretty amazing. Only boyfriend I ever had and we're still in love."
OK, now that's pretty big, but here's another thing that inspires absolute devotion to my hero: She has never had her heart broken.
How on earth can anyone get to be 49 years old and never have experienced the anguish of a broken heart?
"Never," she says brightly. "And I like it like this. I hope it never happens."
By the time I was a year out of college, I had already had my heart broken three times. And that was a drop in the bucket compared to the heart breaks that lay ahead. Until I met Sandy Mary, I thought you had to die by the age of six, if you were to escape heart break. Of course, I console myself by saying that it is the myriad broken hearts that has made me the sensitive, heart-wrenching writer I am. At least my series of broken hearts have brought me profit.
"It is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all," Mama reminded me for 20 years.
Sandy Mary has it best, though, not just better. She has loved and never lost at all.
Here's another thing about my hero: She eats like a race horse and never gains an ounce. She is tall and rail thin.
"I eat so bad," she says often, as though complaining. "This morning, I had a sausage-gravy biscuit, then I had a fried apple turnover for a snack, then for lunch I had a personal pan pizza."
"Do you ever gain weight?" asked her friend, me, who is held captive to years of calorie counting and exercise.
"Weigh the same thing I did when I was 18. And I never exercise. I hate it!"
I sighed. "You are my hero. No weigh gain, no exercise, no broken hearts. Oh, to be like you."
"Yeah, but I'm probably gonna die of a heart attack when I'm 50!"
I doubt it. God'll leave her here just to taunt the rest of us.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.