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Everyone is special.

Amid the closed stores and dilapidated buildings of Aliquippa stands a majestic stone building. Through the eyes of a child, the mammoth structure is probably overwhelming. Numerous concrete steps rise high from the street to the grand entrance of the B.F. Jones Memorial Library. As in many other small towns throughout western Pennsylvania, the Aliquippa library is the cornerstone of learning. Recently, at the library, I learned something I will never forget.

Entering this architectural masterpiece with my son David by my side was not an easy task. Although David is almost two years old, he cannot walk. However, he can go almost everywhere with me in his wheelchair. Because the library is old and has not been made accessible to people with disabilities, I had to carry David up the concrete steps to the library entrance. After struggling with the heavy steel door, we barely escaped its grip as it snapped closed behind us.

Once inside, I scanned the different rooms looking for a librarian, the card catalog or just a place to relax. Luckily, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the index card file and a magnificent table and chair. David and I quickly made our way to the table to claim our spot and enjoy a well-deserved rest.

Following a brief but adequate break, I adjusted David's clothing and positioned him against the back of the pompous chair. With David safely next to me, I searched the card catalog quickly and efficiently until I found the titles I desired. Finding the books on paper was easy compared to locating them on the shelves. In desperate need of assistance, I recorded the call numbers and titles in my notebook, gathered David in my arms, and began my search for a librarian,

I found myself waiting patiently at the main desk when a small, genteel lady appeared. She quietly asked, "Can I help you, sir?" "Yes!" I replied and immediately explained what I needed. She promptly returned with the books. Despite her pleasant, polite and cordial demeanor, it was obvious the librarian was uncomfortable as she stared at David without saying a word.

While David and I were waiting at the front desk to have books checked, I noticed a cute little six-year-old girl smiling at David. As I was adjusting his clothing, the molded plastic of David's full-body brace he wears for support and posture became visible to the little girl. Her curious smile was only briefly interrupted by her impressionable words, "Everyone is special, aren't they?" Then she slowly extended her hand and David reached out to meet her. As they touched, they exchanged smiles and formed a bond which 1, as an adult, could not comprehend.

The little girl continued to ask questions and during our conversation, she noticed that David's left shoe had come untied. Realizing that it was inconvenient for me to reach down to tie it, she politely asked, "May I tie David's shoe for you?" I was touched by her thoughtfulness, compassion and love as I nodded my head in approval. She neatly tied my son's shoe, turned and said, "Thank you. Goodbye."

I left B.F. Jones Memorial Library that Tuesday afternoon in April with two books, my son David and the memory of a little girl who had won my heart. She will probably never know how much her words and actions meant to me but I will cherish them for a long time to come. She taught me that among the books, magazines and newspapers of every library in America lies another great resource - our children.

Daniel Lee Mickinac, a Navy veteran, is a full-time mechanical engineering student at Pennsylvania State University.

He lives in Aliquippa, Penn. with his wife, Lynn, and sons, David, now 4, who has spina bifida, and Matthew, 1, who has Down syndrome and was adopted in May 1991.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mickinac, Daniel Lee
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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