Halloween has come and gone and all the kids’ weeks of planning out their costumes have been rewarded with a large bowl of candy, filled to overflowing and sitting in our pantry. I have noticed that there is a distinct hierarchy among these confectionary treats, with the miniature candy bars reigning over the noble class of Starbursts and gummy snacks, which in turn lord it over the bottom rung of suckers and Tootsie Rolls. As an act of compassion, I often rescue a downtrodden Reese’s Cup and show it the respect it deserves. Whether it is a part of our Imago Dei desiring order or our fleshly nature wanting to value one thing at the expense of another, it does seem ubiquitous in human experience. Of course, as we get older, our criteria for discrimination move beyond candy wrappers and sugar content and focus more on skin color and socio-economic status. Not that most of us would actually say, “Pardon me but I felt compelled to tell you that I am choosing not to be your friend and that this choice is based primarily on your financial bracket and the color of your skin.” But we might as well, as we segregate ourselves into neatly divided neighborhoods and social groups.
This past week I finished reading a book about the power that is unleashed when we choose to look past our differences and extend the hand of friendship to those with whom we seem to have nothing in common. Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore is one of the most moving and honest books I have read in a long time. A chronicle of how a homeless black man from the deep South becomes friends with an international art dealer, Hall and Moore tell their story with refreshing honesty and humility. I don’t want to say anything else about the book other than that you should read it.
Too often in life, we look at people like they are a piece of candy in the big bowl of humanity. As we pick and choose our friends and associates, we tend to go for the familiar and comfortable. What I like about Same Kind of Different as Me is that it doesn’t present the idea of making friendships across economic and racial divides as some sort of social experiment. It doesn’t put broccoli in the bowl and say “Now kids, we know it isn’t pleasant but hold your nose, chew and swallow.” Rather it is more like chocolate-covered broccoli, if you will. Moore’s and Hall’s relationship, though a great source of joy and comfort for them both, stretches them as well. To use a different analogy, a spoon full of sugar may help the medicine go down but that doesn’t mean you don’t taste the medicine. In the same way, at times, both men act out a sense of what they think is right even if their lesser instincts tell them to duck and cover. The depth of their relationship is a result of both the organic connection that develops over time and the conscious decisions they make along the way. One of my favorite parts of the book is when, speaking of Moore, Hall simply says “I had come to consider him my brother.” Moore expresses his commitment and love in acts of great compassion and devotion which I am sure will move you deeply.
So when you are picking through the treat bowl this post-Halloween season, don’t just look to the familiar metaphoric Twix bar. Give the fruity tootsie roll a try. You just might find, as Hall and Moore did, a new and unexpected source of great and lasting joy.