Interview: Ron Hall of “Same Kind of Different As Me”
On the Huffington Post, I interviewed Ron Hall, whose wife inspired him to befriend a homeless man named Denver Moore. Their book, Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together inspired a film starring Greg Kinnear, Djimon Hounsou, and Renee Zellweger. It will be in theaters this fall.
He wasn’t really looking for any friends. He considered himself like the lion in the jungle. He had this very angry persona that was his protection and his self-preservation. I wasn’t looking for any friends like him either, truthfully, I was only doing this to repay Debbie for the forgiveness that she had shown me after my infidelity. At her insistence I pursued him for about five months until I finally got him in my car. I took him to breakfast and he thought I was in the CIA. He said, “Why would some rich white man be trying to follow me around?” We ordered breakfast and I found out a lot more about him. He came from a plantation and he had never been to school in his life. He said “Well, so what is it you all want from me?” I said, “Well, I just want to be your friend. Straight up, that’s all I’m looking for.” That in a way was kind of a lie. I was wanting to be more friendly, I wasn’t really wanting to be his friend in the real sense.
That’s how arrogant I was. I didn’t think he had anything to offer me in a friendship. In my mind if he cleaned himself up a little bit, behaved himself I would let him hang out with me for lunch and things like that, and take him around and show him a few nice things and try to make him feel bad about making all the bad decisions in his life that keep him from being like me. I didn’t have any respect for homeless people at the time because I felt most of them laid their own bed and they will have to lay in it.
Anyway after a couple of weeks I saw him taking trash out of the dumpster so I stopped by and I said, “Hey, you want to go get some coffee?” So we were sitting there at Starbucks and I’m trying to explain to him what an art dealer does and he was totally uninterested in that so after a few minutes of me talking he said, “Are you through talking? Tell you the truth there’s something I heard about white folks that really bothers me and it has to do with fishing.” He said, “I heard when white folks go fishing they do this thing they call catch and release.” I said, “Yeah, Denver, they sure do because it’s a sport, don’t you get it?” He said “No, no man I don’t get that at all. Back on the plantation where I grew up we’d go out in the morning, we’d get the cane poles, dig us a can full of worms, we’d go sit on the riverbank all day long and when we got something on the line we were really proud of what we caught and we’ll share it with our folk. It occurred to me that if you are a white man that’s fishing for a friend to catch and release, I ain’t got no desire to be your friend.” My mind flashed back to Debbie’s dream of a poor man who was wise. If I ever heard from God in my life it was at that moment and I knew that I had to accept that friendship and I had to catch and not release. I said, “Okay Denver, if you will be my friend I will not catch and release,” and he said to me “You have a friend for life;” and I said, “Okay, you do too.” The fear I had of him or becoming his friend evaporated.