Reaching out to the homeless
An unlikely friendship is inspiring many to help the homeless
When Denver Moore met Debbie Hall years ago, the two would never have imagined how their lives would intertwine. Moore was a homeless man living on the streets of Fort Worth, Texas. Debbie was an upper-class white woman. Eventually Debbie’s husband, Ron, and Moore would become good friends and even share a home together for 10 years after Debbie died. Ron and Moore worked together to help raise awareness for the homeless epidemic and shared their story in a book the two wrote together called “Same Kind of Different as Me,” which sold more than 1 million copies and made it onto the New York Times bestseller list. This fall, the book was made into a film released by Paramount Pictures and a new version of the book was released, including a 16-page color photo insert.
Recently Ron Hall took time from writing a second book all about his 10 years living with Moore to answer some questions for Hope about why his book and film are impactful and what we can learn as a result of his experiences.
Hope for Women: What inspired you to turn your life experience into a book?
Ron Hall: It was actually Denver's idea to write the book. We were driving to our ranch to build a proper stone wall around Debbie's grave site when Denver began laughing. I'd found nothing funny for weeks and it was just a few days since we laid her to rest. “What's so funny?" I asked Denver. "Mr. Ron, there ain't nobody ever gonna believe our story; we gots to write us a book! A few months later he moved in with me and for the next three and a half years we sat at the breakfast table and wrote our book. Or I should say I wrote the book as Denver at the time could not read and write.
HFW: Why do you think it’s hard for us to put our differences aside in order to come together with others?
RH: Because we judge without knowing. Denver once told me as I was walking the streets with him and judging many of his homeless friends: “Mr. Ron, the courthouses is full of judges. God ain't looking for no more of those. But let me tell you what God is lookin’ for – servants.”
HFW: What role has your faith played in your life?
RH: Like most people, I am a person of faith. It's where you place your faith that matters. In this long roller coaster ride call movie-making, I learned to trust only in God, not those professing Him. When I put my faith in Christ in 1974, I was not fully prepared or aware of the truly awesome God we serve. Debbie's and Denver's friendship caused me to let God out of the box where I liked to keep Him. As a witness to many miracles over the last 20 years, my faith has deepened.
HFW: What is the most important concept that you want your readers to grasp from the book?
RH: I want my readers to grasp the concept that it's not the color of our skin that divides us, It's the condition of our hearts. If we get our hearts right, we will love everyone from every tribe and every nation. In the famous words of Denver, I also want everyone to realize “We are all homeless, just working our way home.”
HFW: What do you wish the public understood about homelessness?
RH: The homeless are God's children just like us. They want you to know their names and their stories. Their clothing, living conditions and sins may be different than ours, but God see's all of us through the same eyes, His. Denver used to tell me, "Mr. Ron, you never know who's eyes God is watching you out of. I can tell you it ain't gonna be your preacher or Sunday School teacher. It just might be a fella that looks like me."
HFW: Why do you believe there is a stigma associated with discussing homelessness and poverty?
RH: The stigma associated with discussing it is that few people know how to deal with it. Mother Teresa said, "It's fashionable to sit and talk about the homeless but unfortunately, it's not fashionable to sit and talk with them.” We ask God why He allows it and He throws it right back in our face asking why we allow it. It's not a government problem, it's a faith-based problem that only the churches can resolve. The answer lies in every church in America taking in and providing every need for just one homeless person or family. There are far more churches in America than homeless people. Bottom line is love is the answer and the only real thing that changes lives. Denver has stood before hundreds of thousands declaring it was the Christ in Miss Debbie that became the hope of glory for him.
HFW: Where can we buy your book and learn more about the movie?
RH: “Same Kind of Different as Me” can be found at Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and all book stores. You can get more information about the movie and book on Facebook and Google.
HFW: How do you think the visual element of the movie will change how the audience experiences the story?
RH: I've seen the movie at least 10 times. In our test audiences, there was not a single person that could stand and leave as the credits rolled. It is powerful, impactful, memorable and most of all, a call to action to make a difference in the community where you live.
HFW: Walk us through the process of writing your story. How long did it take? What was most difficult?
RH: Writing the book took three and half years of sitting at our breakfast table interviewing Denver and weaving our two stories together. The most difficult part of writing was getting Denver to come clean with his past, his years in prison and his years on the streets where he was known as Suicide. According to the homeless who knew him, messin' with him was the equivalent of committing suicide.
Once the book was finished we were unable to find a publisher so I self-published. By the grace of God, one of those books was read by Christian author, Ken Gire. With his help, a few weeks later, Thomas Nelson, who had turned us down earlier, agreed to publish under their brand.
HFW: How did your friendship with Denver Moore change your outlook on life?
RH: A lot of people view our story as a wealthy white man helping a poor African-American homeless man. That could not be farther from the truth. In the beginning I believed we were thrown together by Debbie's dream to save each other. Denver and I lived under the same roof for 10 years after Debbie went to heaven. Looking back over those years together, I did very little to change Denver, eventually totally abandoning the notion. Instead, I celebrated his uniqueness and praised him for staying true to the spiritual being God created. As for me, Denver radically changed me. I would have never chosen to share those 10 years with him apart from being changed by his wisdom and friendship. I'm just about finished with a new book about those 10 years.
HFW: Do you have anything else to add?
RH: I want to plug our foundation SKODAM.org. It is my desire to involve our readers in the change. I want to clothe the homeless with T-shirts and hats with a message, and I want the donations and merchandise sales to support smaller underfunded missions across the country who often operate with insufficient funds to feed and care for their clients. You would be surprised how many smaller missions that care for 20 to 50 people cannot even pay their electric bills or afford gas for their vans. I want our readers to be aware and join us in carrying the torch for Debbie and Denver.