***Spoiler Alert*** If you haven’t read Same Kind of Different as Me, you may want to skip this post until after seeing the movie.
Years ago after reading Same Kind of Different as Me, I dragged my three young children to Barnes & Noble in Waco to hear Ron Hall and Denver Moore speak. To be honest, I don’t remember what they said (probably because I was working hard to keep my kiddos still), but I do remember humility, and humor, characterizing the way they interacted with one another. It was refreshingly, not normal: this wealthy, white art dealer and a black homeless man sharing such an authentic friendship.
But had it not been for Ron’s late wife, Debbie, Ron would’ve never stepped foot in the homeless shelter where he met Denver, let alone navigate a relationship with someone so different from him. At the time they met, Ron had been having an affair, and Denver was the most violent, hard-to-reach man at the shelter. So no one would’ve predicted the transformation that would come for both.
In the movie we get snippets of the Halls pursuing after Denver, the Halls fighting for their marriage and then fighting Debbie’s cancer. Can you imagine the emotional exhaustion they must have felt? Plus, they had teenagers! The fact they didn’t throw in the towel is but by the grace of God.
Speaking of teenagers, with them in the Hall’s home, and the fine paintings and other high-dollar items they had, I think most of us would’ve been too afraid for Denver to even know where we live, let alone come spend the night. But Debbie inviting him into their home was the catalyst for the change in Denver, and the shift in their relationship.
For Denver, this invitation made him feel valued, loved and trusted, which then freed him to share his darkest secrets. And while I’m sure he still feared rejection might come when the Halls heard about his past, their response and unwavering acceptance reflected what God’s love is like.
I hope this story – this movie – will move in more of us to take up the “torch” (as Denver called for at Debbie’s funeral) to invest ourselves in the muck and mess of others, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus. For some this will be to the homeless populations in our cities. For others it will be to the refugees, sex trafficked, poor, homebound, elderly, disabled, sick, abandoned, addicts and others. For some, this will be overseas. But for all us, this should also be happening in our churches, workplace, schools, and neighborhoods!
All around us there is brokenness, hurt and need.
All around us there are those hiding their past, or current, struggles in fear of rejection.
All around us there are those who need a friend who isn’t going to walk away when things get too hard.
All around us there are those who feel such shame and hopelessness that to know just one person cares could change everything.
But I also know, like the many at Debbie’s funeral who gave Denver a standing ovation for his speech, the idea of doing what Debbie did is one thing, the putting into practice another. Why? At the heart level, there are at least two reasons: 1) our time, our things, our schedule is more valuable to us, and 2) our distracted, self-focused lives keep us from even seeing the needs of others.
Pouring ourselves out for others takes time. It’s a commitment and sacrifice that will not leave us unaffected. We will get entangled in other’s problems that will seem easier left alone. But like Ron Hall discovered, life interrupted was of far greater value than anything he owned. May we see this too.
May we be a people who see ourselves as the same kind of different as those around us. May this create in us humility, and the eyes to see and love our neighbors as ourselves. And through the loving others better, may hearts be transformed, communities changed, and in the process true joy discovered through the giving up of our lives.