In Arthur Miller’s iconic play, Death of a Salesman, Linda (the salesman’s wife) tells her son in the middle of the story, “Attention must be paid.” At the end, her older husband who has tried and tried and tried to make a bigger commission commits suicide because he believes the insurance money will help his family more than continuing to try.
There are many, many people in St. Paul who try so hard to remain afloat. Many are invisible to us, yet one in four of the people you pass on the street lives in poverty and struggles with traumas of all kinds.
I met Sandy (not her real name) when I stopped by to door knock someone else who was gardening on the street. As I went to my car, I noticed a small group of people on the steps of an apartment across the street. I went over and introduced myself. Sandy introduced herself and wiped her eyes, so I asked, “Is this a good time?”
She said, “It’s ok, I’ll get it together. I need something to distract myself.” So I asked what was up.
It turned out that she was fighting with her landlord to get even basic maintenance done. Everything that was wrong (no hot water, bedbugs, refrigerator doors that wouldn’t close, holes in the closet, kitchen cupboards falling off the wall…and most alarming for her—no doorknob on the outside door) took a big fight to get it fixed. On top of that, she had lost a relative every year for the past 8 years, had been assaulted in the parking lot (and not reported it for fear of reprisal), and her son had died of asthma. She suffered from severe depression and was doing everything ‘right’ to address it by attending meetings and following every piece of advice she was given.
I toured the apartment, which was as neat, clean and tidy as possible. And I vowed to help her. At the end of the tour, she said to me, “You know what was most special about this?” I didn’t know. She said, “You didn’t even tell me anything about yourself.”
It really wasn’t about me.
So I’ve stayed in touch. As a small landlord, I had the contact name of an inspector and I made a call to the city to get the apartment inspected. And I’ll keep in touch to make sure she’s ok.
As a mayor (and as a human being), I can’t ‘save’ everyone. And most people don’t need or want saving. They just want to know someone cares and will make an effort. I try to do that everyday. If you honor me with your first choice vote, I will do even more of it as mayor.
As Linda in Death of a Salesman says, “Attention must be paid.”
As mayor, I will pay attention. And I will act.
Be well, and take of yourselves and each other,