Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What I'm Reading Now-Same Kind of Different as Me

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent-(This is another airport find that I happened to pick up at LAX along with Gang Leader for a Day.) Okay, so, brief review (no, seriously!): Rich white guy (Ron), and his super-religious wife (Deborah), who is into volunteering at the local homeless shelter/mission, make friends at the shelter with an older black man (Denver) who used to pick cotton for The Man and is very distrustful of the husband and wife team and their motives at first. Rich white guy is constantly shocked and amazed by the grace shown him by his wife, his skeptical new friend, and the rest of the homeless shelter's...residents? shelterees? congregation? (I'm not really sure what the correct terminology is here.)

See? I told you it would be brief.

I really loved this book even though I'm not too comfortable with books about How Great God Is! It's not that I dispute it necessarily, I just don't want it shoved down my throat, and this book can be a little shove-y at times; but the husband is right there with you through the whole thing going, "I know, right? I thought my super-religious wife was crazy too!" so it all kind of worked out. Also, there were enough more subtle parts to break down my defenses. The story is told alternately from Ron and Denver's points of view, and I think that Lynn Vincent did a good job of capturing both of their voices.

When word spread at the mission that Deborah (Miss Debbie) had been diagnosed with cancer, Denver talks about how the folks at the mission took it:

There's a lot of folks come down to the mission and volunteer, but most of em was not faithful like Miss Debbie. But that wadn't all. It was the way she treated the homeless that made them accept her as their friend. She never asked em no questions, like how come you is in here? Where you been? How many times you been in jail? How come you done all them bad things in your life? She just loved em, no strings attached.

That's the way she loved me, too. The Word says God don't give us credit for lovin the folks we want to love anyway. No, He gives us credit for loving the unlovable. (...)

You know, if you ain't poor, you might think it's the folks in them big ole fine brick churches that's doin all the givin and the carin and the prayin. I wish you coulda seen all them little circles a' homeless folks with their heads bowed and their eyes closed, whisperin what was on their hearts. Seemed like they didn't have nothin to give, but they was givin what they had, takin the time to knock on God's front door and ask Him to heal this woman that had loved them.

During Deborah's stay in the hospital Ron stops by the mission. He hasn't seen Denver for a while, and he wanted to check in with him.

In the hallway to the kitchen, we ran into Chef Jim. I asked him if he'd seen Denver that day.

"He's probably sleeping." he said.

"Sleeping!" I blurted.
Lazy, I thought. It was already midafternoon.

Jim raised an eyebrow. "You don't know?"

"Know what?"

"Well, when Denver heard about Miss Debbie, he told me she had a lot of friends that would be praying for her all day. But he figured she needed someone to pray all night, and he would be the one to do it."

My eyes widened as he went on. "So he goes outside at midnight, sits down next to the Dumpster, and prays for Miss Debbie and your family. When I get up and come down here at three in the morning to get breakfast going, he comes in for a cup of coffee and we pray here in the kitchen for her until about four. Then he goes back outside and prays till sunup."

Ashamed, I realized again how deep grew the roots of my own prejudice, of my arrogant snap judgments of the poor.

Yikes. How many of us have ever been in those shoes, making a snap judgment of someone because s/he's poor, rich, black, white, clearly a foreigner, clearly a native, employed, unemployed, homeless, living in a mansion, a man, a woman, married with no kids, married with kids, single with no kids, single with lots of kids, young, old, tall, short, fat, thin, in short, not like us? I know I have, and one of the things that I try to take away from a book like this is the inspiration and strength to not do things like that. In an interview at the back of the book, Denver says, "You never know whose eyes God is watchin' you through. It probably ain't gonna be your preacher and it just might be someone who was livin' like I used to." whose eyes God is watchin' you through...I never thought of it like that.

I've mentioned before that I like Anne Lamott's writing because even though she is deeply religious and believes, much like Deborah, that when you are in doubt the best thing to do is pray (which I can't really relate to at all) she still has moments of, "Seriously, God? Are you KIDDING ME???" (which I can totally relate to). That's why this book worked for me as well. Deborah and Denver both had a faith that was unshakeable, but Ron...not so much. He was skeptical, and I can relate to that, but he also witnessed some things that might be classifiable as miracles and really couldn't come up with any other explanations...which makes me willing to question my beliefs more so than anyone telling me, "You just have to have faith. Because it says so in the Bible."

Fore more information about this book, you can check out the website at There's a video, a calendar of Ron and Denver's speaking engagements, and other reviews and comments about the book.

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I'll add a link to your review.


Amy said...

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this book, as I read good reviews from people who are probably more like Deborah. ;)

I think when I have crisis and doubt I still find myself talking to God. Which is my personal definition of prayer. but yes sometimes I'm saying to Him...are you kidding me? ;)

Dreamybee said...

I'm glad I liked it too. I think it works well to speak to both sides of the aisle, as it were.

I think "personal definition of prayer" is the key. Everyone should have his or her own personal relationship with whatever higher power s/he believes in, and I think God is wise enough (and capable enough) to provide different outlets for different people. Everyone doesn't have to do it the same way.