“That’s another of Spencer’s unique and valuable assets: its people. We are good, solid, hardworking midwesterns. We are proud but humble. We don’t brag. We believe your worth is measured by the respect of your neighbors, and there is no place we’d rather be than with those neighbors right here in Spencer, Iowa. We are woven not just into this land, which our families have worked for generations, but to one another. And a bright shinning thread, popping up in a hundred places in that tapestry, is Dewey.

In our society, people believe you have to do something to be recognized, by which we mean something “in your face,” and preferably caught on camera. We expect a famous town to survive tsunami and a forest fire or produce a president or cover up some horrible crime. We expect a famous cat to save a child from a burning building, find his way home after being left behind on the other side of the country, or meow “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And that cat better be not just heroic and talented, but media savvy, attractive, and have a good press agent, too, or he’s never going to make it onto the Today Show.

Dewey wasn’t like that. He didn’t perform spectacular feats. There was nobody pushing him to success. We didn’t want him to be anything more than the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa. And that’s all he wanted, too. He ran away only once, and he went only two blocks, and even that was too far.

Dewey wasn’t special because he did something extraordinary but because he was extraordinary. He was like one of those seemingly ordinary people who, once you get to know them, stand out from the crowd. They are the ones who never miss a day of work, who never complain, who never ask for more than their share. They are those rare librarians, car salesmen, and waitresses who provide excellent service on principle, who go beyond the job because they have a passion for the job. They know what they are meant to do in life, and they do it exceptionally well. Some win awards; some make a lot of money; most are taken for granted. The store clerks. The bank tellers. The auto mechanics. The mothers. The world tends to recognize the unique and the loud, the rich and the self-serving, not those who do ordinary things extraordinarily well. Dewey came from humble beginnings (an Iowa alley); he survived tragedy (a freezing drop box); he found his place (a small-town library). Maybe that’s the answer. He found his place. His passion, his purpose, was to make that place, no matter how small and out of the way it may have seemed, a better place for everyone.

… Dewey didn’t do one heroic thing; he did something heroic every day. He spent his time changing lives right here in Spencer, Iowa, one lap at a time” (pp.207-208).

From Dewey by Vicki Myron

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