24 ¶ A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash
Denise is my lifelong friend who’s been with me from the very beginning.
We first met when we started kindergarten together back in the fall of 1966. When we got older, we sat side by side in the band hall. (We both played baritone horn.)
When we were in high school, we were part of a classroom reenactment of the assassination of Julius Caesar. She was Brutus and I was Julius Caesar. She stabbed me with a straightened-coat-hanger-sword and we had it rigged with a flexible tube so it when in my stomach and out my back. I bled Campbell’s tomato soup on the linoleum floor. It was terribly impressive.
When Denise and I first began our friendship, I had a hard time understanding anything she said. They have a fancy name for everything now, and I think today the speech pathologist would say that she had “difficulties in fluency.” Back in the old days, we all just said that Denise “couldn’t talk plain.”
I saw Denise last October, and she reminded me of this fact. “It really wasn’t grammatical at all. I mean now we’d say, ‘She couldn’t speak plainly.’ But back then, people just “couldn’t talk plain. That’s just the way it was.”
There was a child in our kindergarten class who could understand Denise perfectly and was able to interpret. One day I heard out music teacher “Miss Pat” respond to something that Denise had just told her. “So, Denise, you’re saying that you watched Popeye this morning?” she exclaimed.
The speech-interpretation-kid shook her head. “Miss Pat, Denise said that this morning she got a spider bite.” (Denise was telling the truth. Her arm had a bump on it as big as a walnut. Nowadays you’d probably rush your kid to the ER, and they’d have to have $40,000 worth of micro-surgery. But back then we had great parents who knew what to do at home. Really, they were brilliant doctors. Probably her mom put calamine or something on it and then sent her to school. And Denise was just fine. We always wound up just fine.)
Let’s skip forward a full twelve months. Denise and I were both in the first grade. We attended the same Buerkle Street Elementary and our rooms were side-by-side. Despite the close proximity, we might as well have been on different continents. We had different classrooms, different teachers, different lunchtimes, and different recesses. We didn’t see each other for ages.
That is, until Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Shireman decided that the two 1st grade classes should get together to learn how to square-dance. (This was a total of 70 kids. Teachers back then were sturdy and brave.) I’ll never forget when Denise and I laid eyes on one another. We ran and hugged each other (even though you weren’t supposed to do this at school.) She said, “Hi, John! What have you been doing?” The amazing thing was that she said it just that clearly.
I embraced her again and said, “Denise! You can talk!” She said, “Yes. I’ve been going to Speech.” And so our friendship became just that much better. It’s easier to be close friends when you can converse freely.
Throughout our lives, Denise always explained the situation the same way. “When I was a kid I couldn’t talk plain. That’s because my sister, Rhonda, taught me how to talk. And Rhonda couldn’t talk plain, either.”
I told you this story today just because it’s a fun story to tell. And it always makes me happy to remember those times, and to tell it all one more time. But truth be told, there’s a spiritual lesson in the story, also. It reminds me of something that the Lord Jesus said. “If the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into the ditch.”
Some people are good patterns to follow. St. Paul was such a good example that he told the church, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). But people like that are pretty few and far between, so you’ve got to be careful.
One thing’s for certain, you’ll never fall in a ditch when you’re following the Lord Jesus. So let’s make that our goal this week.
(By the way, this story has a double happy ending. Rhonda grew up and learned to “talk plain” too! 😊)
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 34 ½ years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He’s currently on a sabbatical from the preaching ministry, and is an English teacher at the Choctaw Tribal School. He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in a brick house in town (where the paper-lady puts The Meridian Star under the garage door every morning.) You can send him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org .