Have you read it? It's about a boy (Billy Coleman) and two hounds (Old Dan and Little Ann), but it's really about a boy who is coming of age, and I think . . . I really think . . . it's a story about friendship. Let me quote something from the seventh chapter:
Although they couldn't talk in my terms, they had a language of their own that was easy to understand. Sometimes I would see the answer in their eyes, and again it would be in the friendly wagging of their tails. Other times I could hear the answer in al low whine or feel it in the soft caress of a warm flicking tongue. In some way, they would always answer.
My congregation may get a little jaded of my talking about dogs, but consider the way Rawls describes the hounds' communication skills: Billy says he could see their answer, hear their answer and feel their answer. Stop and think about those words for a moment - considering we're talking about hounds, those words are remarkable! Old Dan and Little Ann were far better communicators than many of the people I know.
Let's face it: as a general rule, people are poor communicators. We're afraid to express our thoughts and feelings, so we hide. We're more focused on the "me" within us than on "you" out there, and so we fail to listen. If you think about it, the list of reasons we have for poor communication can go on and on. We're just not very good at it. Yet look at those hounds. Look at Old Dan and Little Ann. Unlike us, they had no fear of being accepted, and they loved Billy in unreserved fashion.
So what's the point? The point is that in Little Ann and Old Dan we see the second lesson about friendship: friendship requires honest and loving communication. If you want to be a friend, be willing to listen. If you want to be a friend, be willing to speak the truth.
The Bible gives us clues about friendship. I'll bet you're not surprised! In the first chapter of John we see that Jesus left the Father to "dwell" with us.
John 1,14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth.
The Message translation puts it this way: Jesus moved into our neighborhood. That's because Jesus wants to be our friend. Do you remember Lesson 1 - friendship starts with wanting to be a friend?
Yet that's not all. This One from above also came to this world full of grace and truth. Stop and think about grace and truth for moment. Do you see Lesson 2? It's in those two beautiful words. Jesus, as our friend, came bringing grace (He has a loving ear - he lovingly communicates), and Jesus, as our friend, came willing to speak the truth (He is honest about you and me).
That's Lesson 1 and Lesson 2, and they both come from Jesus.