Everybody’s different: ‘The Same Kind of Different as Me’

By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Jan 8, 2008 - Ron Hall never dreamed of being an author or advocate for the homeless. He was happy being a successful art dealer, husband and father. 

Denver Moore was content to live on the streets. It was where he felt most comfortable.

It wasn’t until 1998, when Hall and his wife, Deborah, began volunteering at the Gospel Union Mission in Fort Worth that a twist of fate forever changed the two men’s  paths.

It was at the mission that the Halls met Moore, a black man who had grown up on a Louisiana plantation, spent 10 years in Lousiana’s infamous Angola prison and who had lived on the streets of Fort Worth for 22 years. 

In November of 2000, Deborah lost her valiant battle against cancer, but not before forging a tender and meaningful friendship with Moore.

It was Moore who helped Ron Hall through the loss of his wife. Now, their futures, their work and their personal stories are forever intertwined. Together, Hall and Moore published a book, “Same Kind of Different as Me,” which has sold over 150,000 copies since it was released in 2006. 

�Actually, it was Denver�s idea to write the book,� Hall said in a recent telephone interview from his North Dallas home. �I knew we had a good story because of Deborah�s and Denver�s lives, but I had never written anything and I struggled to tell the story.�

The idea for the book was hatched on a trip to Rocky Top, the Hall’s beloved ranch overlooking the Brazos River. Hall and Moore were going there to build a proper cemetery for the site on the ranch where they had buried Deborah. 

�Denver had been staying with me off and on. I was trying to get him to move off the streets and in with me, but he wasn�t quite ready to do that,� Hall said. �He just started laughing and said, �I think, Mr. Ron, nobody ain�t ever going to believe our story. We need to write a book.��

Hall said, “What’s that ‘We?’ You don’t read and write. Who’s going to write this book?”

Moore laughed again and said, “You know what I mean. I’ll tell you my part of the story and you just write it down.”

Hall said, “OK,” and set out to write their story.

It took 13 drafts and what Hall calls “a miracle from God,” but the book eventually found a publisher and a collaborator named Lynn Vincent.

�An unknown writer telling an unknown story can�t even get a publisher to return a phone call or an e-mail,� Hall said. �You�re a nobody in their book.�

This incredible story was not to be denied, however, and through a series of unlikely connections, the manuscript found its way into the hands of Lee Hough, an author of Christian books.

Hough, who had grown up in Fort Worth, got his first job working for the Halls at their young life camp for families in Colorado in 1980.

Once he received the book, Hough stayed up all night reading it, according to Hall.

�He called me the next day and said, �I will get this published,�� Hall said. �The next week, I had the chief editor and executive vice president of Thomas Nelson Publishing in my living room meeting with Denver and me saying, �Please don�t go anywhere else. We want this book.���

The unlikely friendship between the white art dealer and the black man from the streets began when they met at the Gospel Union Mission in Fort Worth.

Hall was there because his wife insisted that they volunteer there one day a week. 

Moore used the mission for hot meals and a haven from the elements. He nicknamed the couple  “Mr. and Mrs. Tuesday,” because that’s the day of the week the Halls  were there, helping out with meals and other chores.

As Moore says at the beginning of the book, “Until Miss Debbie, I’d never spoken to no white woman before . . . the last time I was fool enough to open my mouth to a white woman, I wound up half-dead and nearly blind.”

But Deborah Hall was persistent.

�She was so pushy, I couldn�t keep her from finding out my name was Denver.� Moore says in the book. �For a long time, I tried to stay completely outta her way.�

Deborah insisted that her husband befriend the wary homeless man, even though it took quite some time before Moore trusted the rich man’s motives.

One day, over coffee at a Starbucks near the mission, Moore asked Hall what kind of friend he wanted to be.

�I heard that when white folks go fishin� they do somethin� called �catch and release,�� Moore said. �I can�t figure that out. �Cause when colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everyone that�ll look. Then, we eat what we catch � we use it to sustain us.�

Moore was not interested in being part of a “catch and release” friendship with Hall.

�If you is fishin for a friend you just gon� catch and release, then I ain�t got no desire to be your friend,� Moore told Hall. �But if you is looking for a real friend, then I�ll be one. Forever.�

Since that moment, the two men have been close, each becoming richer for their relationship.

Moore’s strength and unswerving faith sustained Hall during Deborah’s illness and death. 

For the past six years, Moore has lived in a house on Hall’s property in North Dallas, even though “he’s more comfortable on the streets,” according to Hall.

In 2006, Denver Moore was voted “Philanthropist of the Year” by the citizens of Fort Worth for his work with the homeless.

Moore has become a successful artist, selling more than 100 paintings and having his work exhibited at the Cerulean Gallery in Dallas.

In the past three years, Moore has also learned to read and write.

�Barbara Bush has invited us to Washington, D.C., in May for the National Day of Literacy,� Hall said. �Denver will be reading from our book for the celebration. Mrs. Bush has also endorsed the book, which is something her assistant said she never does.��

Together, the two have raised funds for homeless shelters across the country.

�I believe God has blessed our book. We�ve spoken at 200 events in the 18 months since the book came out,� Hall explained. �We have 70 events between now and the end of May. In Charlotte, North Carolina, we raised $550,000 at a luncheon, and in Chicago, we raised $780,000 at a dinner.�

Since their book was published, Hall says the Gospel Union Mission, who receives 100 percent of Hall’s royalties from the book and his speaking fees, has been “flooded with volunteers and ahead of their budget.”

�I never felt like I could profit from Debbie�s death,� Hall explains. �I did this to honor her and God�s people.�

Moore also donates 100 percent of his speaking fees and 50 percent of the royalties from the book to the mission. 

The title of this inspirational story came from Moore’s astute observation of the human condition.

�I used to spend a lot of time worryin that I was different from other people, even from the homeless folk,� Moore writes. �Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn�t eve 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.�

Moore spends his time traveling to speaking engagements, but he has not forgotten where it all started. He continues to volunteer at the mission and he still does what he calls “street work” with the homeless. 

�I take clothes over to the homeless people and take care of my homeboys that�s still on the street, maybe give them a few dollars,� Moore said.

He also preaches once a month at the Riteway Baptist Church.

While Hall has been blessed beyond measure for the experience, he says he’s looking forward to returning to his life as an art dealer.

�After three years spent writing the book and two years on the road, I need to get back to work before I become homeless,� Hall said, with a gentle laugh.

�Same Kind of Different as Me� is due out in paperback in April and it has been optioned by Hollywood by the same people who produced �In Pursuit of Happyness.��

�Forrest Whittaker�s agent has called twice,� Hall said. �Whittaker wants to play Denver in the movie, which I think would be great since Denver had a very violent and dangerous side to him at one time.��

Hall believes Whittaker proved that he could do dangerous and violent in the movie, “The Last King of Scotland,” for which he won an Oscar for his portrayal of African dictator Idi Amin.

Hall and Moore will be the guests of Longview’s Newgate Mission on Wednesday, April 9. The event will be at the T.G. Field Auditorium, 400 North Second Street at 7 p.m. Admission is free. 

For more information, photos of Moore’s art work and the pair’s appearance schedule, please see their website:

www.samekindofdifferentasme.com

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