Good Reads: A Most Unlikely Friendship

posted by Sharon March 14, 2011 0 comments

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, Lynn Vincent

Denver doesn’t read. He doesn’t write. He’s lived most of his adult life homeless. But Denver thinks about things. He analyzes how life works. He can cut to the heart of a matter with startling clarity of expression.

We know this because he’s told his story in the book, Same Kind of Different as Me. The book’s author, Lynn Vincent, interviewed both Denver and his wealthy friend Ron Hall and documented the intertwining of their lives. Ron meets Denver when Deborah, Ron’s wife, signs them up to serve Tuesday dinner at a homeless shelter. Ron tries to befriend Denver, who is suspicious that Ron is putting in time just to feel good about himself. “If you is fishin for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend.” Denver thinks it over, though, and finally decides:

“I could be his friend in a different way than he could be my friend. I knowed he wanted to help the homeless, and I could take him places he couldn’t go by hisself. I didn’t know what I might find in his circle or even that I had any business bein there, but I knowed he could help me find out whatever was down that road. The way I looked at it, a fair exchange aint no robbery. He was gon’ protect me in the country club, and I was goin’ protect him in the hood. Even swap, straight down the line.”

The men do slowly get acquainted as each tries to understand the world of the other. Eventually the disparate men are bound by something they have in common after all: both men love Deborah, one as her husband and one as her friend. When illness strikes, neither can save her. Both grieve.

And how’s the friendship going today?

“All in all, we’s purty tight. Lotta times, we’ll sit out on the back porch . . . lookin at the moon shinin on the river and talkin about life. . . I used to spend a lotta time worryin that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn’t ever gon’ have no kind a’ future. But I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us.”

I find the value in this story to be in the glimpse into the life of a dirt-poor child, abused because he’s black, passed from one relative to another. He learns to survive; he learns to depend only on himself. Told in his own words, his story is one of early tragedy, rejection, violence, isolation. When Denver breaks his lifestyle of shutting himself off from others, he finds the redemption that God and love can bring. Countless Denvers have lived and died with their stories untold. In this book, the voice of this homeless man comes through loud and clear.

How about you? Have you gotten to know a homeless person? Have you been homeless yourself?

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