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FWM 1I am sure the world would be a better place if we all had empathy for everyone all the time, but life would be exhausting if we did. While I believe we can increase in our ability to empathize with others, the reality is that we have limited resources when it comes to the amount of time we can devote to causes. It requires time and energy to learn and truly understand what another is going through and then we must divide our limited resources in order to help others. What provides us with the best opportunity to experience empathy for others is our own experiences. If we have lost a loved one, we understand grief. If we have gone through cancer, we can understand someone else’s fluctuating emotions, and so forth. We can all have a surface level empathy for things we can imagine, but outside of personal experiences we must pick and chose the areas where we move to that deeper level of empathy.

Let me share with you my limited experience with wheelchairs that helped me appreciate the work of Free Wheelchair Mission.  The year was 2011. Our family dubbed it “the year of the hospital.” Our grown son and my mother-in-law both experienced life-threatening medical conditions that left them in the hospital for extended periods of time. Our son was moved to rehab, but from late May until the following March we were traveling 45 minutes away at least once a week to visit our son.  For several months, that overlapped with my mother-in-law’s hospital and rehab stay that extended into 2012. Neuropathy in our son’s legs left him unstable on his feet and unable to walk more than a few steps at a time.  On several occasions, even with a team of medical personnel, our son fell and was injured.

Thankfully, over time he regained his ability to walk, but for many months he was wheelchair-bound. We would pick him up to bring him home for a few hours on Sundays and learned all about folding and unfolding the chair, the best ways to get it into the van, and just how bumpy the walkway to our house was. We realized how challenging even one step into the house could be for someone who must now stand up and walk into the house, as the wheelchair didn’t easily fit. We came to appreciate ADA compliance-width hallways and bathroom stalls. Wheelchairs, even good ones, do not turn on a dime. You need space. You need flat surfaces. And if you don’t have a ramp, you can forget getting into a building with a flight of stairs. As for my mother-in-law, we were focused more on things like motorized lift recliners and walkers. We were getting very well-versed in these and many more issues that related to limited mobility such as cooking, dressing, and bathing challenges.

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It is so easy to take for granted our ability to walk, to get around. We don’t think about it until that task is not longer simple. For many people in the world, their ability to go places and do things is hampered by an injury or illness that hinders their mobility.  For those in developing nations, that struggle is magnified by limited access to wheelchairs.  Wheelchairs are expensive and in limited supply in poorer nations.  Free Wheelchair Mission has provided 844,120 free wheelchairs to people in 91 nations (as of June 2015).  Free Wheelchair Mission’s chairs are specially designed to work in rugged terrain and maximize the space in shipping containers to increase affordability.  A single wheelchair cost $77.91. Your gift is a gift of mobility, freedom and so much more. For children unable to make their way to school, it is the gift of an education. For adults, it means the chance for meaningful employment and the chance to get out of poverty. For families, it means the opportunity to do more things together. Please consider giving a one-time gift or becoming a monthly supporter.  Looking for ways to develop empathy and giving in your children? Why not purchase Wings for a Flower.  Maybe your financial resources are tapped out. Consider sharing the ministry of Free Wheelchair Mission at your local church. Check out their website and see all the opportunities there are to be a part of the great work they are doing.

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Written by Barbara Seidle

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