Last month, in his message during the Christmas Annual First Presidency Devotional, President Uchtdorf taught the following powerful lesson, which bears repeating as we start the new year:
"One example I learned about involved a man who lived in Africa. Because of a disability, this man had never been able to walk. He was forced to spend most of his time in his parents’ home. He could not work; he could not go out with his friends; he could not do even the simple things we take so much for granted.
Then he heard something remarkable! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was bringing wheelchairs to an event not far from his home!
He asked a friend to take him to the event, and there he watched as dozens of disabled men, women, and children were lifted into new, gleaming wheelchairs. Oh, how he wanted to sit in one of those chairs! How it would change his life for a moment if he could move about by his own power!
He waited in line until finally, it was his turn.
Two men lifted him into a chair and for the first time in his life, he was able to move freely!At first he moved about hesitantly. But as he got the feel of the wheelchair, he moved more courageously.He turned, twisted, and sprinted. He waved enthusiastically with both hands as he raced past his friend.
The look on his face was one of joy.
After a time, however, he slowly wheeled the chair back to the others and with an expression of calm resignation he prepared to be helped out.
“What are you doing?” his friend asked. The man smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “It is someone else’s turn now,” he said.
The Church humanitarian missionary knelt beside him and said, “This wheelchair is yours.” The man couldn’t believe it. He had assumed this event was only to demonstrate what it was like to ride in a wheelchair.
“Is it truly mine?” he asked.
“But I have no money.”
“It is yours. It is a gift from people who love you.”
When the reality of what was happening finally sunk in, this humble man looked at his friend. He looked at the missionary. He tried to hold back the tears, but it was in vain. And as he wept, he laughed at the sheer joy of what he felt.
His friend and the missionary wept with him.
“Thank you,” he said in a whisper.
He hugged them both, settled into his chair, and then with a “whoop!” he took off again with a big smile.
“I can fly!” he shouted as he sped back and forth along the pavement.
This man understood gratitude."
We have learned that Africans have so little, but do know how to experience happiness. This joy comes in large measure because of gratitude for the little things in life. One only needs to listen to the prayers of the African people. You might have to open your eyes because it feels like the person praying is conversing directly with God.