Same Kind of Different As Me is based on the wonderful book/inspiring true story by the same name. It’s worth both reading AND seeing. (Don’t miss their second book, What Difference Do It Make, either!) It’s the life-stories of two very different men, a wealthy (white) art dealer and a homeless (black) man, and how their paths crossed and they became friends. It was a friendship that changed both of their lives for the better, and ultimately the city and the world in some measure. Their story is provocative and inspiring and full of opportunities for you to have some deep discussions with your friends, Christian or not.
Here are just a few (11) of the beautiful lessons and take-aways from this movie.
- Vision changes things. Deb had a vision of the poor part of the city being transformed. She saw flower boxes and beauty. A place where the poor people in that part of the city knew that they mattered just as much as the rich people on the other side of the tunnel. Her vision changed everything. The Bible says that people perish without a vision. Not many people had a vision for that part of town… Deb’s vision changed everything.
- Ron began the movie saying, “This [city] is my home…and it’s broke.” Ownership/Possession changes our response to things. When we feel something is OURS, we care about fixing what’s broke. We don’t have that same feeling about something that isn’t ours. Just think how different it is when we rent an apartment, vs. own a home—our response to what’s broken greatly changes with our level of ownership. When we begin to see our neighborhood, our town, our city, our state, our nation, our world as ours… however far that sense of ownership and possession goes… we begin to get involved, deeply involved, in fixing the things that are broken in it. So, how far does your sense of ownership extend?
- Most homeless people weren’t always homeless. As Ron and Debbie got involved with the homeless, they began to hear their stories. Stories about where they came from and how they ended up homeless. Sometimes it’s surprising to hear what someone was in their “former” life—people with impressive back grounds who fell on hard times/tragic circumstances. Other times, you have to think, if I’d come from that childhood or background, I’d probably be homeless, too. The more we learn about each other, the harder it is to throw stones.
- Friendship is a thing to commit to, not a thing to take lightly. Denver didn’t just jump into a friendship with Ron. He had to think about it, because for him friendship is a commitment for life. He doesn’t do “catch and release” friendships. We assume everyone treats friendship the way we do, but sometimes it’s good to have that conversation, to ask someone what friendship means to them. We might find their definition of friendship is more serious or more casual than ours. In either case, we, as Christians, are called to be the kind of friends Denver was. Jesus calls us to love our enemies, how much more our friends?
- Sometimes we don’t understand someone’s response to us because we don’t know their history. Denver was extremely cautious about a relationship with Ron and Debbie. They later found out that he had suffered great racial injustice and persecution in his youth and because of that, had sworn never to even talk to a white person again, especially a white woman. Once we know someone’s story, their responses make a lot more sense.
- “While the journey of the homeless can often begin in a hopeless place, [it doesn’t have to end there].” There is hope for the homeless, but we may have to be the ones who see it for them first. Denver certainly didn’t have much hope for change. Debbie brought that to him and to Ron… Both men began to see the possibility of change for Denver (and the whole homeless community) because of her vision.
- Often the most important thing we can do for the homeless is to let them know they aren’t invisible, that they matter. Denver told Ron, “When you give a plate of food or $1 to a homeless man, what do you think you’re doing? Helping?! No. A plate of food don’t change nothing. You’re telling him you see him. He’s not invisible.” And that is a far bigger deal than most of us can imagine.
- When you choose to see someone’s heart instead of their actions (past or present), you are speaking life into them, telling them they are more than what they do. After Denver confessed his past sins to Debbie and Ron, she simply said, “You’re not a bad man. You have the strongest heart. And I’m glad we’re friends.” She spoke to all that was good in him and let go of the bad he had done. She saw his heart (not his actions) and that gave him permission to see his heart (and forgive his actions), too. Jesus did the same when he told Peter, right after Peter had denied him three times, “You are a rock, and on this rock I’ll build my church.” He didn’t focus on Peter’s actions, but on his heart, and that brought life to Peter.
- We don’t like being reminded of how privileged we are, because that makes us humble and accountable…and uncomfortable. A man at Ron’s country club confronted Ron about Denver being there. “We come here to get away from the world and I’m not sure how good it is to be reminded of how fortunate we are.” This is the sad reality. We feel entitled to our riches and we don’t want anything to lessen our enjoyment of them. When we come face to face with people who have needs, we have this nagging sense that maybe we should do something. Maybe our riches are just for us…maybe we have a responsibility to share them. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (2 Corinthians 9:11, emphasis added). We have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. We are to steward all God has given us, not to simply possess it—and part of us deep down inside knows that, but chafes at it.
- Sometimes you just gotta bless the hell out of people. Ron’s Dad was challenging, to put it gently, and Ron was angry with him. Denver told him to just bless him. “Your daddy got a good man inside of him,” he said. “Bless him.” Later, Ron told Denver, “You were right about my dad. There was a good man inside my dad. I just had to do a lot of digging.” To which, Denver dryly replied, “Sometimes you just gotta bless the hell out of people. Your daddy had a lot of hell in him.” Similar to Jesus who said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44), or Paul who wrote, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse,” (Romans 12:14). Bless the hell out of people!
- God is the original recycler; He turns trash into treasure. This story is all about how God turned what the world considered trash, in a marriage, in a man, in a people group, in a part of town… and turned it into treasure. This is who God is. Note how when Jesus came, he announced to everyone that this is who He is. He started to read from the famous “beauty for ashes” passage in Isaiah and said essentially, “That’s who I am and the business I’m in… recycling and upcycling.”
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-21)
Questions for Discussion:
- What is your response to the homeless around you? Honestly?
- Have you ever talked with a homeless person and heard their story?
- When someone shares their past sins with you, do you see their heart (and who God has made them to be) or do you see their actions (and who they have been)?
- Are you a catch-and-release kind of friend or a committed, keep-it-forever kind of friend? Have you ever had someone catch and release you as a friend? How did that feel?
- If God is truly in the recycling/upcycling business with people, then how does that change the way you see yourself? Other people? Is there anyone in particular that you might see differently under that perspective?
- Who do you know that might struggle with feeling invisible? How can you let them know that you see them, and that God sees them? The homeless and the elderly are two significant people groups that often feel invisible. Who else?
- Who do you know that might need you to “bless the hell out of them”? How hard is that to do? How might you begin to do it?