I can only imagine how frightened my mother and father must have been. The doctors informed them that their firstborn child, a daughter was completely blind due to a genetic condition called Cutaneous Albinism.
My father, a refugee, and my mother, a young girl, feared their daughter would not have the life they had hoped in their new country.
They feared not only for my health but also how society would see my disability. They had lived through much bleakness in Bosnia during World War II.
They knew indifference, judgement, and hatred firsthand.
They could see the compassion of doctors and staff at the hospital in Montreal and they had a strong faith.
It was the only way to survive.
As the days turned into weeks I gained strength and some vision. A miracle of sorts, I’m told.
Life was difficult for a girl with a disability.
I did not look like others and I certainly did not see like others. I started to see, it was not my inability to see well that held me back, it was the inability in others to see my ability.
Very often I was left behind because of indifference and judgement.
Most of the time, I did not communicate my needs. I thought it was a form of weakness.
Some of the time, I did and was met with confusion.
You see, it is easier to not deal with a problem than it is to solve one.
I did see the worst and best of people. I chose to see the worst experiences as an opportunity to grow.
I began to see the best experiences as a way to teach others to see the abilities in myself and other people with disabilities.
Over time I began to see things differently.
Moving to Summerland, I was filled with optimism and fear.
In this place I call home, I see beauty, compassion, and kindness.
It sounds so idealistic yet it is my reality.
Even when we disagree, I still see the best in our community. I can’t help myself.
The beauty is not only in the expansive vistas or the not anything like Alberta weather.
I witness the compassion and kindness every day in our volunteers, our citizens, and our business owners.
I see it in each one of you.
One thing I’ve learned, how well you see the world has less to do with human capabilities and more to do with perspective.
When your neighbour does not share your opinion, do you see an enemy or do you see another viewpoint?
When a business owner does not share your opinion, do you see a needed local product or service, or do you see an opportunity to condemn?
When you see me do you see a disability or do you see capable?
Some say a disability is a gift.
There are many days I do not see it that way.
I guess the gift is the opportunity for others to see beyond themselves and see into the eyes of the vulnerable, the young, the old, the broken, those that are alone and scared.
How can we support those that need to strive harder to achieve our normal?
How can we move past our differences to find practical solutions that will make the transformation possible for our community to succeed?
Why do we choose to see an adversary when we can choose to see another view?
I guess the question is, to see or not to see.
Mirjana Komljenovic is an active volunteer, a business woman and a wine lover.