I like to read. Always have. As a kid I rode my bike to our local library with my friends to browse and check out books. When I met my wife, we spent our evenings together in the library at Baylor University and, across the years, libraries have remained one of our favorite places to visit on our “dates.” When we moved to Waco, Texas two weeks ago, one of the first things we did was sign up for our library card. Most of the books I read soon evaporate from my memory. But, once in awhile, a book sticks with me. Same Kind of Different as Me is one of those books that stuck. Apparently the book has been out since 2005. But sometimes it takes a book a long time to find me.
Same Kind of Different As Me is actually two stories. One, the story of an illiterate black man named Denver who was raised in the cotton fields of Louisiana and ended up homeless on the streets of Fort Worth. The other, an upwardly mobile white man named Ron Hall who graduated from TCU and made a fortune in the art world. They each tell their story, and the remarkable intersection of their journeys.
Maybe I was drawn to the book because Ron Hall spent his childhood summers on a farm near my boyhood home of Corsicana. His descriptions of Corsicana resonated with my memories growing up on Collin Street, one of the signature brick streets that reflect the glory days when the city boasted more millionaires per capita than any other town in Texas. Maybe I was drawn to the book because Ron and Denver intersect in the slums of Fort Worth east of downtown where my wife started her teaching career forty years ago.
But the true stories of Ron Hall and Denver Moore are not the main stories in the book. They represent other stories: the story of our country and its culture. Ron represents those who rise from middle class with professional opportunities that can lead to great wealth. He also represents the dangers of that path that include temptations for greed, materialism, shallow and broken relationships. Denver represents the alarmingly huge segment of our population that falls between the cracks, victims of prejudice, oppression, injustice and neglect. He also represents the dangers of that downward spiral that includes temptations of bitterness, anger, isolation and despair.
But the greatest story underlying and connecting all of these is God’s story. Ron’s wife, Deborah is the entry point for His work, one person who was open, willing and obedient who became the catalyst for connecting these two broken men from different ends of the social spectrum.
In a day when many look to government to heal our wounds and solve our social problems, Same Kind of Different As Me serves as a reminder that the real solution to our personal and social problems lies within us. It is often buried beneath our own prejudices and fears, but it can be unlocked and released with the keys of acceptance, trust, faith and love, all the things Jesus demonstrated and talked about.
God wants to use each of us, whatever our race, whatever our circumstance, whatever our background to make a difference in the world. You can learn more about Ron and Denver’s stories by visiting their website, http://www.samekindofdifferentasme.com/.