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HOW CAN SOME PEOPLE BE SO THOUGHTLESS?

The Village of Akron is undergoing a major renovation and updating of our branch of the U.S. Postal Service. I am proud to say we will become handicapped-accessible and fully equipped to participate in the 21st century. The project includes a new ramp and a stairway to enter the building, as well as many conveniences for everyone, handicapped or not, once inside.

On a recent Saturday morning, as I was rushing to get a special card in the mail, I parked the car across the street from the post office. I could see the renovation was coming along nicely. The handicapped ramp appeared to be complete on the right side of the front entrance, with the left and front portions still under construction.

The ramp is about 25 feet long with a U-turn and then another 25-foot stretch to the entrance - a grand total of 50 feet of walking. Big deal!

But as I slid myself into the little procession going up the ramp, I overheard a flood of complaints: "This is ridiculous. We have to walk a mile out of our way just to get into the darned post office." "What a pain, just to mail a letter." "What a mess. They should have left things the way they were."

These were comments from people of various ages. One was a male who seemed to be in great shape at age 70. Another was from a young woman who appeared to be the epitome of health. The others did not appear to be physically handicapped, either.

The one thing they all had in common, though, was a rather pronounced reluctance to be put out by any extra mileage on their errands.

Now I have been known to grouse myself about a thing or two, and although I have no need to feel politically correct, I do strongly believe that every citizen in this country should have access to any and all government buildings, at the very least.

When I was co-owner of a restaurant, my partner and I made sure that handicapped people were able to get to all of the events on either floor in that turn-of-the-century structure. We were covered under a "granny clause" and were not forced to do this. However, I believe that we all must do our part to make this world an easier and better place to live.

When I heard the comments at the post office, I bit my lip not to say: What if your spouse were handicapped? What if your daughter was in a wheelchair and couldn't do her own mailing or buy a stamp? Would 50 feet be worth it for you to walk just so she could have that independence of mailing things on her own? How about the 49-year-old father of four who uses a wheelchair? Imagine the restoration of a bit of his dignity by the feeling of self-sufficiency this access will afford him.

Maybe we all need to think about the "improvements" we grouse about. We have some choices as to how we react to the bother of ramps and renovations. I have had my share of cross moments during road construction and other improvements, but now I will try to view them for the final benefit they will have on our lives.

And, yes, we can choose to feel good just knowing our inconvenience will restore a sense of independence for someone else.

Think about this: It is worthwhile to take this positive approach just for our own health benefits - low blood pressure, lack of migraines and no ulcers. Here's to more ramps to climb and fewer heart attacks.

NANCY JO ECKERSON lives in Akron.

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