Listen: Ron Hall chats to Laura Bennett
For Ron Hall, the movie Same Kind of Different As Me is a brave act of laying his soul completely bare: it tells the true story of his failing marriage, including unfaithfulness to his wife – and the journey of rebuilding his life on new foundations.
Based on the true story of Ron and Debbie Hall, Same Kind of Different as Me was a New York Times bestselling book before it hit screens, debuting in the US in 2017 and now hitting Australia shores.
It tells the story of Ron and Debbie Hall – a Texan couple whose marriage was falling apart in the midst of their opulent lifestyle, and the homeless man named Denver who helped heal their relationship.
Having been unfaithful to his wife, Ron promised Debbie he’d do anything to repair their marriage. Starting with a request to “just be faithful”, 10 years later Debbie had a dream of man she wanted Ron to befriend.
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A Dream That Foretold of the Man They Would Meet
“One day [Debbie] said, ‘Ron I had the most extraordinary dream’,” Ron recalled, in an interview with Hope 103.2.
“[She said], ‘I dreamt about a homeless man, and I saw his face [and knew] by his wisdom our city and our lives would be changed; I must find him, would you go with me?’
“So I agreed… and we started driving through the city to where all the homeless people were camping out… We didn’t see him that day, so we decided to stop and volunteer to serve an evening meal at the homeless shelter in that neighbourhood.”
Weeks into their serving, they met Denver – a tall and overbearing aggressive man, who’d stormed into the shelter declaring he’d, “kill whoever stole his shoes” and who had very little interest in being known by the Halls.
Debbie however, knew Denver was the man in her dream – and encouraged Ron to talk with him.
“I was very reluctant,” said Ron (pictured). “His [nickname] was ‘Suicide’ because the other people at the mission said ‘the reason’s he’s called Suicide is that if you mess with him it’s the equivalent to committing suicide; he’s dangerous, he’s crazy – you’ve got to leave him alone’.
“So I talked with God and came away with the sense that me being friends with a homeless man was a small price to pay for the forgiveness He and Debbie had shown me [years earlier].”
What started as something Ron saw as ‘penance’ of a sort, became a friendship that completely revolutionsed his attitude toward philanthropy, and made him realise that ‘helping’ isn’t punishment – it’s a gift.
Breaking Down His Arrogance
“My approach [to charity] was to keep my hands out of it,” said Ron. “and just write the cheque. I’d never been to a homeless shelter. It wasn’t on my bucket list to go into one – I was a very successful art dealer travelling all over the world and selling some great masterpieces in the most beautiful museums in the world.
“I was so arrogant and didn’t think I needed to go to a homeless shelter; they didn’t need anybody like me…but God had a whole different idea of what he wanted to do with my life, and he was about to ‘repaint’ the canvas of it into a whole other painting.”
“Whether we is rich or whether we is poor… this earth ain’t no final resting place; so in a way, we is all homeless, just working our way home.”
Debbie had been right about Denver’s wisdom, and it was the nuggets he continually shared with Ron that truly helped him change.
In one exchange by Denver’s dumpster he said to Ron, “’Whether we is rich or whether we is poor – or something in between, this earth ain’t no final resting place; so in a way, we is all homeless, just working our way home.”
He went on to critique Ron’s approach to faith saying, “‘Why is it that all you Christians worship one homeless man on Sunday, and then turn your back on the first one you see on Monday?’
Denver said, ‘Mr. Ron you never know whose eyes God is watching out of – and it ain’t going to be your preacher or your Sunday school teacher; it might be a fella that looks like me.”
Rethinking Our Approach to Charity and Generosity
Same Kind of Different as Me is a call to rethink how we approach generosity, and to remember the humanity of those we help.
When it premiered in the States, audiences told Ron, “‘this film has given us new eyes to see how we can make a difference’.
“In this film, there’s a message of faith, hope, love, redemption, grace, friendship, forgiveness – these are all perfect themes for an imperfect world,” Ron said. “[It] illustrates beautifully that it’s not the language that you speak or the colour of our skin that divides us – it’s the condition of our hearts. And [Same Kind of Different as Me] forces you to confront that.”
Same Kind of Different as Me starring Renee Zellweger, will have its online premiere 29th-31st May, available online until 14th June.
Every Single and Family pass sold contributes to The Red Shield Appeal. Go to movieschangepeople.com for more information, and join Hope 1032’s Laura Bennett and Ron Hall for a live Q&A event after the movie.