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.