Public Service

A few days ago, I was walking through Overtown, a rough and mostly Black part of town that everyone in faraway suburbia – myself once included – seems to fear even driving by. I felt oddly at ease, and most residents were friendly, if not a little perplexed at my presence (a lot of people asked what I was up to or where I was going, in a mix of politeness and curiosity). After all, how often do they get outsiders, especially from the more well-off and insular suburbs?

At one point, I was approached by a casually dressed but well-kempt man who shook my hand and welcomed me to the neighborhood. He was sincere and professional. He apologized for the litter lining the sidewalks and assured me he’d get it clean right away. He eventually introduced himself as the city official responsible for administering the area, and wished me a pleasant visit. I wish I had remembered his name, but I think I was too shocked by the revelation.
This man wasn’t what we imagine a public official to be, especially in these cynical times. He wasn’t in a crisp suit working in some cloistered high-rise office. He looked and behaved like the common man, walking the streets of his neighborhood with his constituents, wishing them well and exhorting them to clean up after themselves. I saw him directing others to tidy up the area, partaking in the dirty work himself without hesitation.
I couldn’t have asked for a more inspiring encounter. I know it’s not much to go by, but I still feel hopeful that there are good people out there working for the public good. I hope I can be one of those people some day.

2 comments on “Public Service

  1. This post brought tears to my eyes, Romney. I’m not sure why, but maybe it’s because this area, like so many others, has been written off. Forgotten. Avoided.

    The irony is that these people are intelligent enough to know they themselves have been written off. Forgotten. Avoided. Yeah. That’s why I’m crying.

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