Same Kind of Different As me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent
My second book in my Easter reading fest this past weekend is this lovely gem. As opposed to "Cultivate", I will admit that I have been a bit turned off by this cover, and have overlooked it when it was recommended for me in the past. This time, though, it called out to me, and remembering there was a movie made about it not too long ago, I read the synopsis and watched the movie trailer, then eagerly gobbled the book up.
In alternating chapters, this book follows the story of a young black man living in Louisiana, working for sharecroppers, like everyone in his family. The system is rigged, and although it is modern day, people are still living, working every day as many hours as possible, for no pay on farms in the South. When he came of age, Denver was "given" a small shack without running water or electricity to live in by the Man. His debt for it was noted in the ledger, and he'd not receive any pay until the debt was paid, with the system being set up to ensure that never happened. He'd been kept working on the farm since he was a small child and he had no formal education and couldn't read. After losing virtually all of his family to illness and violence over the years, he hopped a train one day to try to make a life for himself in Texas, where he ended up homeless. He ended up in prison, as many in his situation do, and when he came out he cultivated an image of himself as someone you don't want to mess with, in reality trying to protect his heart and his hurt inside.
Ron and his wife Debbie had married young and poor, but through hard work and good fortune over the years, had become wealthy and successful. When their kids were grown, Debbie was looking for something to do, some way to help, and heard that their local homeless shelter needed volunteers. She began working there, and with their marriage on the rocks, she convinced Ron to work their with her. It soon became obvious that this was not a passing interest for Debbie, and she became a fixture at the shelter, helping out, and getting to know the people who stopped in for a meal. As their marriage strengthens through their shared service, Debbie receives a prompting that Ron should try to befriend Denver, who seems to have no friends at all. They get to know each other, and just as things seem to be going well, devastating news comes that Debbie has stage 4 cancer. Through the last months of her life, Ron and Denver grow ever closer, Denver is converted to the Christian faith, and he is treated as a family member as Debbie is put into the ground.
Following Debbie's death, Denver worries that Ron will abandon him, his friendship having only been present out of Debbie's wishes, but he soon learns that Ron has genuinely come to love and admire and respect him. They embark on a journey together to see the land of Denver's youth and visit his remaining family. Ron is absolutely appalled at the living conditions Denver grew up in, and that many still live in today, poverty deeper than he had ever before imagined. Eventually, Ron helps Denver get his driver's license and hires Denver as his delivery man, bringing expensive works of fine art to their purchasers.
This book is deeply moving, and illustrates the miracle that God can have on the human heart, as you see both Ron and Denver grow and change in their faith and the way they interact with God and with the world around them. It was a blessing to read and has left a lasting impact on my heart and renewed the desire in me to do a little more to help those around me who have less than I do, whether that be physically less or spiritually less as well. I feel like this book should be required reading to be a human- it is fantastic, and I know your heart will swell with love and faith when you read it too.