Serving or Judging

Denver Moore was raised on a Louisiana plantation.  He was given a place to sleep and food and in return, he was required to work on the plantation.  He was not allowed to attend school and never learned to read.  When he was old enough, he hopped on a freight train and spent 20 years in a homeless, nomadic life.  This included a 10-year jail term.  Denver was a scary individual who carried a baseball bat with him at all times.

Denver ended up in Fort Worth, Texas where he met Ron and Deborah Hall.  Ron and Deborah were making an effort to heal a troubled marriage.  As part of the healing process, Deborah asked Ron to help her at the Union Gospel Mission serving meals.  Ron was reluctant.  He had no desire to be around people he judged to be derelicts.

The Halls’ first encounter with Denver was frightening.  He entered the mission and threatened to kill anyone who took his shoes.  He swung his bat, and people scattered.  Deborah saw Denver differently.  She had previously had a dream about a man who would change the city.  Denver was the image of the man she had dreamed about.  She encouraged Ron to get to know him, but Ron was reluctant.  “He scared the living daylights out of me.”

Ron reached out to Denver, but Denver wanted nothing to do with Ron.  “When white people fish, they catch and release, while blacks eat what they catch,” Denver said.  Denver thought Ron was looking for a catch and release friend.  Eventually through Ron’s persistence, he and Denver became friends.

Denver had a premonition that “Somethin’ bad gettin’ ready to happen to Miss Debbie.”  He was right.  Deborah was diagnosed with colon cancer.  Her dying wish was that Ron and Denver remain close.

Denver was asked to speak of Deborah at her funeral.  At the end of the funeral, two couples donated $500,000 to build a new Union Gospel Mission.  The initial donation eventually grew to $12 million.  The shelter now houses 500 persons and serves over 400,000 meals a year.  It also provides medical services, job counseling, childcare, and other services.

Ron often talks about the lessons he has learned from Denver.  Perhaps the most valuable lesson is that the world needs servers, not judges.  “I learned to never judge people without knowing their heart and their circumstances,” Ron says.

How often do we judge people without really knowing them?  Our judgements are often based upon stereotypes we create based upon outward appearances.  We never take the opportunity to see what that person is really like because we would rather judge than serve.  Ron had a life of affluence before he met Denver, but it was a life focused on materialism, not service to others.

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“The only things we keep forever are the things we give away.”  –Denver Moore

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