Are You The Same Kind of Different As Me?

by Harvey Hook

Story618February 22I grew up in a racially and socio-economically homogenous community in New York state. There wasn’t a lot of “different” in our small town. Yes there was some, but not enough to stir the flames of cultural conflict. In spite of our sameness, it didn’t take long for me to judge myself against the talents and successes of others, and I regularly ended up on the short end of the measuring stick. I concluded that I was different from everyone else, or at least that the others were better than me.

However, transport me to my junior year of college, and I was one of three upstate New York, gentile, country boys, living with three New York City Jews, and I was the only white player on an all-black flag football team. I was given the nick-name “Brother”, and if ever someone was pushed from a small-town bubble, it was me. If ever there was a time of new ways to judge or measure myself against others, it was then.

But the backdrop of “different” was forever changed when I entered authentic relationships with those different than me: racially, culturally, socially, and politically. My university experiences continued in relationships with mentally handicapped adults, a Mexican roommate, an African roommate, incarcerated youth felons, and diverse business and religious leaders, and I became close to those on both sides of, not only the political aisle, but divisive social issues as well.

It was in our differences that I discovered our sameness: we were all humans. And our journey forward as one was made possible by recognizing the opportunity to listen to, learn from, and follow one another. Such a journey begins with humility and requires we set aside our arrogant, judgmental biases and our inherent desire to always be “right”.

The pathway I discovered is not unique, and it is available to you and those you know. Let me introduce you to three others who also discovered it, and one of them will be speaking here in Columbus later this month:

DENVER MOORE was a dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery during the 1960s.  RON HALL was a successful art dealer. Although they lived in two separate worlds, their lives collided when Ron’s wife DEBBIE insisted that Ron join her in serving food at a local homeless shelter. As soon as she met Denver, she had a vision that he would change the city and that her husband must befriend him. Their story, immortalized in the New York Times best-selling book, Same Kind of Different As Me, inspires people to take off their racial, social, and economic blinders in order to find common ground.

Denver once said: “I used to spend a lot of time worryin’ that I was different from other people, even from the homeless folk. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn’t eve gon’ have no kind ah future. But I found out everybody’s different, the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin’ down the road God done set in front of us.”

Denver and Debbie have since passed away, but Ron will be with us this month to share their story of mistrust and measuring, faltering and failure, that ultimately culminated in the inspiring success of trust, love, friendship, companionship, and faith.

With AEP as Presenting Sponsor and Teresa McWain, Director of Corporate Communications for AEP, as our Breakfast Chair, I am pleased to announce that Ron will speak at our upcoming Spring Breakfast, Story618.

Event Details:
Tuesday, February 22nd
Time: 7:30-9:00 AM
Location: Southern Theatre
Tickets: relaleadership.com/2017story618

I hope to see you there.

Warmly,

Harvey

I Timothy 6:18 – “Be rich in good deeds, generous, and willing to share.”

 

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Harvey Hook is the Founder and Director of Community Engagement at Relā. He can be reached at harveyhook@relaleadership.org.

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