Last week, before our shipment of new wheelchairs arrived, a new or almost new wheelchair mysteriously appeared in our building. One of the building guards told us that it was in the men’s baptismal dressing room. We don’t know where it came from and no one else knew either. We don’t know if someone just didn’t need it and dropped it off or if it was a left there by mistake, but no one claimed it and so we just put it in our storage closet.
Then on Monday, a homeless man knocked on the door of our Deseret International Charities (DIC) office. He was dusty and dirty and wheeling himself in a dilapidated wheelchair because he didn’t have any feet. The wheelchair was an old DIC wheelchair and it was falling apart. It was also dusty and dirty, the tires were falling off the rims, and it was falling apart. Even though it was in terrible condition, the man was very protective of it because he said it wasn’t his; he had borrowed it from a friend of his who is in a hospital.
Chintuya, our assistant and translator, told us that the man had made an application for a wheelchair long ago when our predecessors, Elder and Sister Clark, were here and he has checked back once in awhile to see if DIC had received a wheel chair for him. As he told us his life story, he just cried. He lives in a manhole where the water pipes go that heat the buildings in Ulaanbaatar. He had a rough life growing up in an orphanage. Even though he was able to get some schooling as an engineer, he has had a terrible life because of his alcoholism. He told us that one night, after he had been drinking, he passed out in the freezing weather and, as a result, he had to have his feet amputated because they were frostbitten.
At first we thought we couldn’t help him because our new wheelchairs hadn’t arrived yet, but then Elder Lasson remembered the mysterious wheelchair in our storage closet. As Chintuya and I talked to the man, Elder Lasson quickly walked down the hall and pulled the new wheelchair out of the closet. When the man saw it, he beamed and kept enthusiastically thanking us and thanking us. Elder Lasson and the building guard helped the overwhelmed man into his into his new wheelchair. He zoomed down the hall, twirled his chair in circles and kept repeating words of gratitude.