“But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
8 ask the plants of the earth,[a] and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
9 Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being.”
– Job 12:7-10
A LIFE REDEEMED
Denver Moore, one of the main characters in the movie “Same Kind of Different as me,” was born into poverty. During his childhood he had little and what he had was hard-won. Nothing came to Denver freely. The embers of goodness that reside in children never had a chance to flicker in him. It was replaced by a life of scarcity that required a fight for all he received, a constant pushing for sustenance, enhanced by his own physical strength. He never attended school. As a young adult he was homeless. As a young adult he was roped and dragged by the Ku Klux Klan for helping a white woman change a flat tire.
He found a rusted gun, with no cylinder, and tried to rob a bus. He left the bus after being unable to get the change out of the till. He was arrested and sentenced to twenty years in the notorious Angola Prison. Any ember of goodness in him dimmed even more. Knowing no other way, Denver had taken the wrong path at every crossroads of his life. A life where he never saw the majesty of God.
After twenty years he was released and put back on the streets. Sleeping on grates by a hotel or near a soup kitchen. He carried a large bat to help protect himself and claim his space.
Deborah Hall was struggling with her own life. The affluent wife of a successful art dealer, she was beset by anguish that she should be doing more and not just consuming life. Her husband was growing distant and unavailable. In a restless sleep she had a dream about a powerfully built man who could help her recover her purpose.
In her frustration she started helping at a center that served homeless people by raising money and serving food. Through a crisis in her marriage she was able to convince her husband, Ron, to also help. Reluctant at first, he soon stood beside her serving food.
A man would regularly come in and insist on getting not just one meal, but two. Any attempt to dissuade the man to only take one meal was met with anger, and the staff always relented to ensure calm. One day there was not calm, and the man used his bat to threaten people and damaged a significant artifact of the shelter.
Deborah recognized the man as the one from her dream. She asked her husband to go talk with him. Reluctantly Ron followed the man out of the shelter. The man went behind a building and Ron went after him. There Ron saw a great act of charity; the large, angry man gave one of his two meals to a homeless person confined to a wheelchair. Ron saw the ember of goodness in the homeless man flicker in an act of unselfishness. The man had not been selfishly asking for two meals for himself but wanted one for his friend. The man was Denver Moore. From that point, Ron slowly began to engage the man to build up trust. A trust that would develop into a wonderful fourteen-year revival of both their spirits.
Denver Moore became a member of the Hall family and was at Ron’s side at the country club, social events, and family gatherings. After a lifetime of denials, Denver was receiving.
Deborah died of cancer a few years later, but not before developing the center into a model of how to help. Denver was there to console his friend Ron and deliver the eulogy at Deborah’s funeral. In conjunction with Ron, he wrote the book that became the movie Same Kind of Different as Me.
Denver died in 2012. He left a wonderful legacy of giving in those fourteen years. He helped raise over seventy million dollars for the homeless. He helped his friend recover from the loss of his wife. His last years were about giving and not taking. His last years were spent taking a different path at the crossroads of life. His last years included the tide of his life coming in. Despite all that had happened to him, that small ember of goodness that for many years had been dormant roared into a flame.
Miracles do not always happen the way we want, leaving us frustrated and in a prolonged period of grief. Sometimes through our shortcomings and other times for no apparent reason. For some, like Denver Moore, life starts out bad and we do not get the chance to excel and have a life of bounty. For the parent who loses a child, no pain can be greater. We ask, “Why, God, did this have to happen?” For some it is losing a job despite their good work or getting denied a promotion even though they were the most qualified. When miracles do not happen, life is at its toughest.
When we find ourselves at a crossroads, do we blame God, or do we bear in to God? The answer to this question is extraordinarily personal. Denver took the wrong path too many times, because it was all he knew. Some must learn a hard lesson first. For others it is unexplainable. The path to the answer is through our sovereign God, no matter how angry we are. Who else made the stars in the sky or allows the deer to glide elegantly in the woods? Our healing through faith lies within the decisions we make at the inevitable crossroads of life.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman