Review Of ‘Same Kind Of Different As Me’
I recently read the memoir, Same Kind of Different as Me (2006) by and Ron Hall and Denver Moore. This book illustrates the different life stories of the two men and how they became friends, even family, and how they were brought together by Ron’s wife, Deborah.
The first part of the book talks about each of the men’s upbringing. Ron Hall was born in 1950 into a lower-middle-class white family outside of Fort Worth. He grew up having to help care for his father, who struggled with depression and alcoholism. Hall spent the summers on his grandparents’ Texas farm and saw racism in action without realizing or understanding what it was at the time, due to the fact that his grandfather employed African American farmhands. Ron speaks retrospectively about the segregation he witnessed within his community. Years passed, and Ron begins College in East Texas before transferring to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth; that is where he meets his future wife, Deborah.
Denver Moore was born in 1937 to a family of sharecroppers in Louisiana He was raised by his grandmother, but after her tragic death in a house fire, he is forced to go live with his aunt and uncle on a plantation. For almost thirty years, he works as a sharecropper and experiences the racism in the Deep South at the time. No matter how hard he and his family work, they are indebted to “the Man,” who owns the plantation where they live and work. As a teenager, Moore is severely attacked while changing a flat tire for a white woman on a country road by three young white men. This event shapes his outlook on life and people, especially White people. Moore eventually hops on a passing freight train in search of a better life.
After leaving Louisiana, Moore spends decades living on the streets due in part to the fact he never learned to read or write. He moves around the country and spends ten years in a Louisiana State Penitentiary for trying to rob a city bus. After leaving prison, he winds up in Fort Worth, and his anger continues to build up inside. He is often referred to as “Suicide” and is viewed as a dangerous member of the homeless community.
After graduating from college and marrying Deborah, Hall becomes a high-end art dealer who frequently travels around the world for work. He is extremely successful and becomes entangled in a materialistic lifestyle that money can provide. However, Deborah was never taken with this lifestyle, she is dedicated to raising their two children, and interested in charity work.
Both Deborah and Ron were raised as Christians, but in 1973 they became “born again.” which gave extra emphasis in focus on Deborah’s charity work. At this time, Ron becomes increasingly more caught up in his work and high-status lifestyle. The couple grows further apart, and he has a brief affair with an artist from California. Deborah insists that they go to counseling to work on their marriage, and eventually, it is repaired.
Several years later, Deborah decides to volunteer at the Union Gospel Mission and tells her husband on during his first day serving at the Mission that she had a dream about a wise man who would save the city. As the two of them are serving meals one day soon after, Deborah sees Moore and recognizes him as the man in her dream. After noticing him, she is determined for the two of them to befriend him.
“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 a home.”
At first, Ron has no interest in becoming friends with Denver, despite his wife’s insistence. Over time, though, the men do strike up an unlikely friendship. Hall realizes his new friend has even more to teach him about humility. They both learn to trust each other in a way that neither of them had ever experienced before. Through that trust, they were able to see things from a different, and more fulfilled perspective. Through this newfound perspective, and bond with Denver, Ron was able to repair his relationship with his father.
During an annual checkup, Deborah was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. After fighting for 19 months and undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries, Deborah passes away. Right up until Deborah’s death, both Hall and Moore hold out hope God will save her. After she dies, Deborah’s husband loses faith in a God who will not save someone as good as his wife, while Moore is convinced there must be a greater good she must have died for that none of them can see.
Slowly, Ron begins to piece his life back together with the help of Denver and his children. At a banquet where Deborah is posthumously honored, Denver talks about how Deborah came into his life and helped him find his faith again.
“You was the onliest person that looked past my skin and past my meanness and saw that there was somebody on the inside worth savin’. We all has more in common than we think. You stood up with courage and faced me when I was dangerous, and it changed my life. You loved me for who I was on the inside, the person God meant for me to be, the one that had just gotten lost for a while on some ugly roads in life.”
One of the last things that Ron recalls his wife saying to him was not to give up on Denver because he had a lot to offer him. It was at this time Ron asks Denver to move in with him and the children. The two men decided that they should write a book and begin speaking about their friendship and how Deborah brought them together. As part of the research for it, the two men travel to Louisiana to see where Moore grew up. Hall is horrified by the conditions there and is even more convinced of the significance of Deborah’s work to help homeless people regain their dignity.
The book concludes with Hall and Moore sitting in the front row at President George W. Bush’s second inauguration. Moore realizes despite all the differences which seem to exist between people based on race, class, and education, ultimately, everyone is “homeless.” As we go through the different seasons of our lives, what is most important is how we touch one another’s lives.
This book was made into a 2017 adaptation that was produced by Ron Hall. After reading the story, I was pleased to see how their written word unfolded on screen. If you would like to learn more about the work that Ron does with underserved and homeless communities, visit the Same Kind Of Different As Me Foundation.