Man on a Mission: An Interview with Don Schoendorfer (Part Three)

We are inundated in the media 24/7 with horror stories – with news programming, features, and headlines that overwhelmingly emphasize the bad news in day-to-day human experience. But – thankfully – this is not the whole story. There are many people and organizations in the world doing a world of good, though (sadly) we tend to hear about them much less frequently. One such organization – that, in my opinion, does restoring-one’s-faith-in-humanity kind of work – is Free Wheelchair Mission, based in Irvine, California.

Free Wheelchair Mission is devoted to serving the poorest of the poor, in so-called “developing” countries around the world, who are mobility-deprived for any number of reasons (injuries, accidents, diseases, untreated medical conditions, etc.). These are people whose lot in life has been to crawl on the ground in order to transport themselves or, in many instances, to languish in a back room somewhere, utterly isolated by their inability to move without being carried.

FWM reaches out to these individuals by providing a gift that would otherwise be unattainable for them: a simple, durable, fully-functional wheelchair. This is the kind of gift that literally transforms lives. The lives of the recipients, to be sure. But also the lives of their caretakers, families, friends, and communities. And, furthermore, the lives of all those people who make such a gift possible through their labor, spirit, and generosity. FWM, by its sheer existence, allows us privileged ones to tap into the compassion and goodwill that is within each of our hearts and help a human being in need feel the love of an anonymous brother or sister from across the world.

Now THAT is quite a gift…

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Free Wheelchair Mission’s President and Founder, Don Schoendorfer, to find out firsthand how such a heartening gesture of kindness made it from concept to a reality successfully repeated 800,000 times over, and counting (this is the number of wheelchairs FWM has distributed to date in a total of 91 countries around the globe).

In Part One of my interview, Don revealed himself to be driven by a fierce intellect intent on understanding and explaining the world through science, and determined to make his mark (and fortune) through the field of biomedical engineering.

In Part Two, he chronicled for me the spiritual journey he underwent that gradually, but radically, shifted his outlook on the world and made room for other possibilities.

Now, in Part Three, Don shares the story of how the seemingly disparate calls of his mind and his heart merged in a completely unforeseen way, and put him on a path that soon gained a force and momentum of its own, essentially taking him along for the ride:

Please consider making a donation to support the incredible work of Free Wheelchair Mission. If you do so between now and October 31, 2014, your donation will be matched as part of their Times Two Gift Challenge. Click here and make a positive difference in the world posthaste!

My interview with Don will conclude in Part Four…

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