I spent the past week in Belle Glade, Fla., which is a farming city near Lake Okeechobee, and a curious mix of extremes–I’ve never seen such wealth and such poverty in such close proximity.
Literally 30 minutes away, we passed a large estate with a garage in the yard, full of vintage Rolls Royces. I zipped past pretty fast but it must have been five or six.
The church we stayed at in Belle Glade was in a lower middle-class neighborhood, not unlike the community just to the north of where I live. To one direction lay a bustling commercial district. In the other direction, ghetto.
In the ghetto, the people live a very simple life. I’m absurdly rich. I have luxuries like carpet, my own shower, multiple rooms, drywall, pictures hanging on my walls, air conditioning, hot water, two(!) sinks, a real oven and a range, plus a toaster oven.
People wander the streets because the streets offer a whole lot more than home. We came across a group of older folks who regularly play dominos under a big shade tree. Teenagers stand around waiting for something to happen. Often it’s not good. I only spent a few hours on the streets, but once a cop stopped and questioned me. I didn’t hae any useful information, but a half-dozen patrol cars staked out the area for a couple of hours before they found the person they were looking for. Later that day, we found out someone we’d met the day before was arrested. (I don’t know if he was the guy they were looking for.)
Everyone believes in God, it seems. But all too often, when they go to church, they’re prayed for arrogantly, or made example of. It’s tough to find a church that offers anything to them. So they’ll attribute all the good things that happen to them to God or even to Jesus, but you’ll never see them in church. It’s sad.
It’s a rough and hostile environment, but a lot of cool stuff happened while I was down there. I’m still processing it. I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about it some more.
Meanwhile, here are a few stupid things I said while I was down there, taken out of context to make them sound even worse:
She laughed at me and she shot me down.
Oh, we’ve gotta go to the one with the drunks.*
None of the women in the past who could qualify as “my woman” could be handled.
*Just to clarify: What I really said was, “We’ve gotta go to the one with the drums.” I was referring to a church service. But that wasn’t what was heard.
I got a whole lot of sympathy after the first one; someone thought I was referring to asking a girl out. In reality, I was talking about someone’s reaction to an intentionally bad idea.
Well, I’m going to go sleep. On a mattress. With box springs. On a solid oak frame. I forgot about that particular luxury when I was listing them off earlier.
Having friends from a third world country also makes you realize how good you have it. One friend of mine, who worked in the campus cafeteria his first year here, told me, “You know the hardest thing for me to get used to here? The one thing that really lets me know I’m in a different country, a different world? It’s the amount of food you people throw away. It makes me sick! I think of everyone I know back home scraping by to get food to live, and then I see Americans throwing it away like it’s worthless.” Knowing him has really opened my eyes to the sorts of things we all take for granted.
Well, I was born in Brazil and lived there most of my life, and have been here in the US for the last five years. And I got shocked as I learned more about life in the United States, not only because of the waste of food, but also because how people take for granted the abundance all around. (Abundance of man-made riches, of things that come from money; while in Brazil there’s an abundance of natural resources, which is different although sometimes also overlooked.) And if one decides just to sit on their butt and do as little as they can, they can still survive; try that in a third world country!
About the only thing better than living in the US id living in Alaska in the US. If one can walk away from this place and not acknowledge there is a higher power, that person will take everything for granted. I live here, and I pinch myself every day to make sure I’m not in a dream. God is good. Admit it to yourself and a person won’t take so many things for granted
The world’s greatest sculptor is none other than God. That is my predominant thought as I return from a trip to the Grand Canyon; the natural beauty there is incomprehensible and uncapturable. My photos do nothing for the pure awe you feel as you stand on those precipices.
As for statements out of context and with a perverted twist: “Did you hear about Emily’s computer? It went down on her.”
I gotta get me one of them. ;P