They say good friends are hard to find, and for the most part, I have found that to be a very true statement.

Many friends have come and gone in my life, close friends stay a little longer.  But every once in a while, I find a certain person who is exceptional.  A person who understands how I think supports me through various seasons and experiences and has my back in every circumstance.  One of those people in my life happens to be the pastor of the church I go to.  His name is Bill.

I started attending my church in 1995.  I was in my twenties, had just started my first job out of graduate school, and was still in the process of figuring out who I was and what I believed in.

Our friendship started out slowly.  I saw him at church and said hello, and then asked if I could meet with him to talk about some things. More than two decades later, we still meet to talk on a regular basis. Through the years, he and his wife, and lots of  church members have visited me in the hospital, brought me meals when I am ill and on holidays, and prayed for me in countless ways.

Most of all, whenever I have been  insecure and uncertain, Bill has been there to provide feedback and guidance.

However, there is one memory I have, in particular, that proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had found a friendship with Bill that is something to be treasured.

In 1998, I got my first service dog.  It was one of the best things I have every done.  That dog opened my eyes to beauty and goodness in the world that I previously had not noticed, and helped me to discover the true meaning of  unconditional love.  But wait.  I am getting ahead of myself.

I had spent several months raising money to get my dog.  My church and several businesses in my community were among my biggest supporters.  It amazed me to realize that there were many people in my life who wanted me to get this dog almost as much as I did.

Fast forward several months to a bright spring day in 1999.  I was sitting in church with my service dog by my side.

The service had just started, and Bill was baptizing a little girl who was about two years old.  In the middle of her baptism, her eyes landed on us and she shouted “Dog. Dog, dog!  I was mortified, and more than anything wanted to melt into a puddle of goo on the floor.

Without skipping a beat, Bill, who was on the altar, turned around and looked at the congregation.  When he saw what the little girl saw, he immediately said “She is praying.  Her dyslexia hasn’t been diagnosed yet!”

The color from my cheeks faded as the laughter of others filled my ears, and I knew in my heart that, once again, Bill had my back.  There are many things I can thank him for, the least of which is saving me from a totally embarrassing moment on a spring day a long time ago. But that is not the best thing he has done for me.

Through his teaching, I have also learned to try and avoid live as long as I evil.

Wait a minute. I might have a learning disability as well…