'Same Kind of Different as Me': How a Homeless Ex-Con Radically Changed the Life of a 'Prejudiced' Millionaire (Exclusive)

Oct 17, 2017 12:59 PM EDT

A fine art dealer in Dallas, Ron Hall seemingly had it all: wealth, success, and social status.

And then, God spoke to his wife, Debbie, in a dream -- and his world completely changed.

At Debbie's behest, Ron began serving at a local homeless shelter, soon striking up an unlikely friendship with an illiterate ex-con, Denver Moore. In the process, Ron's perspective on race, economic status, and the meaning of friendship entirely shifted.

Hall's story, detailed in the New York Times bestseller Same Kind of Different as Me, is now headed for the cinemas in a Pure Flix Entertainment/Paramount Pictures release starring Greg Kinnear, Renée Zellweger, and Jon Voight.

In theaters October 20, Same Kind of Different as Me offers a timely message of unity and drives home the powerful truth that we are all one in Jesus Christ.

Below is the exclusive interview with Ron Hall.

GH: How did you and Denver get to the point where you trusted one another?

RH: With Debbie's insistence, I began pursuing Denver through the inner city of Fort Worth - for five months. Finally, we had breakfast in a cafe one morning, and I told him, "I just want to be your friend." He said, "I'm going to have to think about that." It kind of made me a little bit angry, because I was thinking, "Here I am, a wealthy man, and you're a very poor homeless man. You are the man of my wife's dream, and if she wants you to have some nice clothes and car and an apartment, I can do that. I can do any of those nice things for you, and you can do nothing for me."

I was so arrogant that I did not believe that this homeless man had anything to offer me in a friendship. But, a couple of weeks later, I saw him taking trash out of a dumpster, and I invited him to get coffee again.

This time, I was trying to make conversation with him, and he looked at me and said, "You through talking? Because I've been thinking a lot about what you asked me about being your friend."

He said: "There's something I heard about white folks that really bothers me. When white folks go fishing, they catch and release. Growing up on the plantation, when we finally got something on the line, we were proud of it and we'd share it with other folks. So, it occurred to me that if you're just a white man that's fishing for a friend, and you're gonna catch and release, I've got no desire to be your friend."

What he spoke to me at that moment was the wisest thing I've ever heard about friendship. I felt compelled, like I was hearing from God. I told him, "Okay Denver, if you'll be my friend, I won't cut you loose."

So that's how we began our friendship. He became my friend and my professor, and I was his very eager student. His classroom was the curb of the inner city near the dumpster where he slept at night. I began to glean the powerful words of wisdom that came from this man's mouth.

Same Kind of Different As Me
(Photo : SameKindofDifferentAsMe.com)
International art dealer Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear) befriends a homeless man Denver Moore (Djimon Hounsou).

GH: How did your perspective on homelessness - and the way it's viewed in society - change?

RH: Denver told me one time, "Most people consider the homeless a problem. But the homeless is just an opportunity for the faithful to show the love of Christ." The very first day I was sitting with him on this curb, he asked me, "Are you one of them Christians?" I said, "Yes, why do you think I'm down here helping?"

He said, "You ain't down here helping. You blessing people, but you ain't helping them. If you're going to bless somebody, you gotta crawl down in the ditch with them. When they're strong enough to crawl out on your back, then you've helped them. Putting some food on a plate or giving them a dollar isn't helping, it's blessing. Why is it that all you Christians worship one homeless man on Sunday and turn your back on the first one you see on Monday? You never know whose eyes God is watching you out of. It might just be a fellow like me. God is watching out to see what kind of fellow you really is."

GH: Today, we seem so divided in this nation - why is this film's message of unity so important?

RH: Our story illustrates beautifully that it's not the color of our skin that divides us, it's the condition of our hearts. If we can get our hearts right, we will love everybody and we can come together as a nation. But, we just don't stop to examine our hearts. We just watch to judge people instead of serve them. Denver used to tell me, "The courthouse is full of judges, but what God needs is servants. If you're gonna hang with me on the streets, you better learn to never judge and always serve."

If Christians want to be the hands and feet of Christ, we need to not judge those that are different from us. That's why Denver always said, "Whether we're rich or poor, this earth ain't no final resting place. We're all homeless just working our way home."

Denver never judged anybody. He was very honest and caring man. He spent 25 years on the streets, but he spent most nights talking to God and gleaning wisdom.

Same Kind of Different As Me
(Photo : SameKindofDifferentAsMe.com)
Renée Zellweger stars as Debbie Hall

GH: In many ways, Denver was a Christ-like figure.

RH: Well, he was a very Jesus-like figure (laughs) that's a stretch to get there, but he was a person that demanded justice, he was an enforcer on the streets, he didn't allow one homeless person to mistreat another. They called him "suicide" because he always kept a scowl on his face to keep people afraid of him. A lot of people see our story as a wealthy white man saving a poor African-American homeless man, and there could be nothing further from the truth. I had a lot more changing to do than he did. Once he moved in with me, he stayed true to himself. He became a millionaire, but he didn't let it change the way he was. He spent time on the streets blessing and taking care of people and never stopped that. Me? I was an arrogant, I won't say I was racist, but I was prejudiced, there's no doubt about that. I had a long way to change. I didn't believe that he had anything to offer me. My wife was busy chasing the Almighty God while I was busy chasing the Almighty Dollar.

GH: What does it mean to be a friend?

RH: A good friend is one who will lay his life down for another; a true friend is someone that enters into the lives of another person, that enters into their pain and celebrates their joy. We want our film to make a difference and encourage people to look for ways to bless others. We want to show what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus without preaching to anybody. That's what it is to be a friend.