Denver Moore, a homeless, black man and Ron Hall, a wealthy art dealer tell their story of a strong spiritual bond in Same Kind of Different as Me. Ghostwriter, Lynn Vincent (Heaven is for Real), takes the subject of this memoir close to heart, having personally experienced homelessness as a teenager. Lynn, a frequent volunteer with homeless programs, is proud that speaking engagements about the book have helped to raise more than $30 million for homeless shelters nationwide. This unlikely friendship is so believably written that the two men come across as profoundly strong characters. She applies heavy use of dialect in rendering the first-person voices of two southern men, one black and one white. This technique makes it easy to hear the story “come to life.” In fact, you can soon see this story’s film adaptation, to be released April 2016.
Reading this book gave me a deeper understanding about what it is like to experience homelessness and an insight into the mystery of divine providence. Deborah Hall referred to as “Miss Debbie,” by Denver, worked at the Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth, Texas. Ron reluctantly begins to volunteer at the inner-city mission, with his wife’s encouragement. It is here that he meets Denver, an angry loner who scares away anyone who approaches him. This true story shows how God often brings people together for His own purposes. Ron soon discovers that by initiating things as a "giver” he finds himself on the receiving end.
Alternating between the voices of Ron and Denver, readers will compare these two very different lives. I love Denver’s observation, “I found out everybody's different - the same kind of different as me. We're all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or something in between. this earth ain't no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless - just workin our way toward home." When thinking of Ron and Debbie’s ministry to the homeless, I am also reminded of something Mother Teresa once said, “If we want the poor to see Christ in us, we have to see the image of Christ in the poor.”
There is more than just religion in this story. A major theme is the power of friendship and acceptance. One of my favorite parts from the book is when Denver asks Ron if he is going to “catch and release” him. Denver is wondering if Ron’s offer of friendship is really sincere. This in turn had me sit and think about friendships I have "caught and released." Part of me feels they were necessary to my own development as a person, yet another piece asks if I might have abandoned some in their "time of need (growth)." Have you ever caught and released someone in your life? This among other questions will direct a thought-provoking discussion at the Centennial Book Club’s next gathering, scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on November 24 at West Jefferson’s Hotel Tavern. There will be a featured video of Ron Hall telling his amazing story to Abilene Christian University students, at 2:00 p.m. on December 5 in the library’s downstairs meeting room. Hope to see you there!