What does it take to transform the life of a homeless man?
I didn’t read Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore to answer that question, but it’s one lesson I learned from this amazing book, a book I could not put down, a book that had me laughing one minute and crying the next.
It’s a story filled with miracles. And it’s true.
Same Kind of Different as Me chronicles the lives of an international art dealer (Ron Hall) and a former sharecropper (Denver Moore) from their vastly different upbringings through the intersection of their lives starting at the Fort Worth, TX, Union Gospel Mission.
When they met, Ron had many homes; Denver had none.
I did not anticipate when I started the book that I would learn a lot about what we call “lifestyle compassion ministry,” serving those in need as a lifestyle, on an ongoing basis. But I did.
So, what DOES it take to transform the life of a homeless man? To give him hope and purpose?
Well, for one, it takes an investment of time.
Once a year acts of compassion – like building a Habitat House – have their place, for sure. And agencies and ministries that help the poor and homeless often need one-time help for big projects. But if you are called to a ministry of transformed lives, it takes the time, consistency, and commitment to build relationships.
Denver Moore put it like this:
[Ron and his wife Debbie] “was different. One reason was they didn’t come just on holidays. Most people don’t want the homeless close to em—think they’re dirty, or got some kinda disease, or maybe they think that kind of troubled life gon’ rub off on em. They come [on a holiday]… then they go home and gather round their own table and forget about you till the next time come around where they start feelin a little guilty ‘cause they got so much to be thankful for…(p. 93)
[But Ron and Debbie would] come ever [Tuesday] and talk to the homeless folks, and not seem to be afraid of em. Talked to em like they was intelligent. I started to think Mr. And Mrs. Tuesday might be tryin to do some real good ‘stead a just makin themselves feel better ‘bout bein rich. (p. 100)
In fact, the homeless at the Mission were so shocked that Ron and Debbie spent time with them, Denver told Ron that “Folks at the mission thinks you and your wife is from the CIA!” Why? “Most folks that serve at the mission come once or twice and we never see em again. But you and your wife come ever week. And your wife always be askin everybody his name and his birthday … you know, gatherin information. Now just think about it: Why would anybody be wantin to know a homeless man’s name and birthday, if they ain’t the CIA?”
Needless to say, Ron and Debbie’s investment of time and interest had an impact on those at the Mission, and their lives as well!
I’ll share more lessons I learned from Same Kind of Different as Me in future blogs.
Lorraine Potter Kalal