By Kelline Linton, Chief Copy Editor
Gumercindo Holmes sat in Moody Coliseum, listening intently as Ron Hall and Denver Moore told a tale of redemption, friendship and God’s love in Tuesday’s Chapel forum.
Holmes had read the same story in the book the Same Kind of Different as Me, but hearing about the real-life events from the authors themselves changed his whole perspective.
“When I first read the book, I was wondering who the characters were in real-life, if they were authentic,” said Holmes, sophomore psychology major from Pennsgrove, N.J. “They were very real.”
More than 2,800 people from the Abilene and ACU communities packed Moody Coliseum to hear the authors discuss their book.
“It was truly amazing,” said Dr. Charles Mattis, dean of the First-Year Program, in an e-mail.
The authors’ visit was the accumulation of the Freshman Common Reading, a new program sponsored by the First Year Program.
ACU freshmen and faculty were invited to share in a campus-wide discussion of the Same Kind of Different as Me, participating in a variety of activities related to the reading, including two discussions during Welcome Week. The arrival of the authors on campus allowed students to interact with the creators of the book.
“The response to the entire program (reading, Welcome Week discussions, wiki, blog, the creative contest and the authors’ visit) was overwhelmingly positive; we will plan another reading next year, but this one will be very difficult to top,” Mattis said.
The Same Kind of Different as Me is a factual account of the lives of Hall and Moore. Moore, a homeless drifter after an escape from modern-day slavery, meets and befriends Hall, an upscale art dealer.
Today Moore and Hall still are the best of friends, and Moore is actually an artist with his own gallery.
The authors participated in a closed question-and-answer session for ACU students and faculty at 2 p.m. before discussing their book in the open Chapel forum at 7 p.m.
“It was like an assembly where they talked to us,” said Jojo Boyle, sophomore social work major from Memphis, Tenn.
The authors spoke about their personal lives, the events depicted in their book and the impact the book has wrought in their readers’ lives.
Holmes was impressed with one tale the authors told about a woman who read their book and decided to help two men she saw dumpster diving. She gave them chicken and $20 each. Several months later, one of the men came to her house and told her his story.
The man said he was going to use her $20 to get “trashed,” but at the local bar, he met a woman bartender who wanted to hear about his life.
When he told the bartender his family thought he was dead, she bought him a one-way ticket to see them. He went home, got a job and cleaned up his life. He eventually asked the bartender to marry him and went to see the woman who gave him chicken and money to invite her to his wedding.
“All this happened just because that woman read the book, gave him money and helped him out,” Holmes said. “The main message they were trying to get across was that one person can change the world.”
Winners of the Freshman Common Reading creative contest also were announced at the Chapel forum.
Zach Linge, freshman political science major from San Antonio, won first place for his creative art, which students can soon see in the Brown Library’s Learning Commons.
Amanda Arizigian, freshman physics major from Edgewood, Colo., won second place for her creative essay, and Sara Ray, freshman business management major from Olney, won third place for her creative art.
Many freshmen participated in the contest after several freshman-level classes included the book in their curriculum; Holmes read the book for his English class and said he recommends it to everyone.
“For me, it made me miss the gap in my heritage; Denver is very wise, but his knowledge comes from experience,” Holmes said. “The songs he sang and the different things he remembers we don’t have anymore;they weren’t passed down.”
Holmes said he liked the Freshman Common Reading. “If they have books like this,” he said, “I hope it continues.”