The concept of seeing seems so simple, yet it is so complex to explain. I once wondered how one could have no sight and still “see,” like the blind. I knew so little about them, even considered them to be foreign. I naively thought that seeing was believing, when in fact, the opposite was the key to unlocking a new perspective.
Through the process of writing my first novel with a blind protagonist, then selling it and donating the money to a foundation for the blind in my community, I gained meaningful insights about what it means to understand alienated people. Most importantly, I was able to recognize how the act of making even a small difference could bring about understanding — the things we cannot see are often the most magnificent. I was able to develop into a more compassionate person by learning to empathize with people we seem to be very distant from, such as the blind.
My journey started in year 10 at my school. In that year, every student was expected to complete a personal project. The possibilities of this project were endless; we could pursue anything that met our interest. However, it had to have a “so what” factor. In other words, the project had to have some sort of an impact on the community, or even the world. Since I am a rather indecisive person, I had trouble coming up with ideas. I lacked faith and felt doubtful about my project.
Fortunately, I had a supervisor who was a writer. I loved writing, and so did he, and he inspired me to write. To do what I love is the purpose of this project, I thought. My supervisor offered suggestions. Yes, I thought again, I’ll write a book, a good one. I congratulated myself on my progress, as I had taken my idea a step farther.
It was extremely difficult to come up with ideas for the book. What would it be about? How would I publish it? I had so many unanswered questions, but realized I was being too reliant on myself. My supervisor was there to help. He guided me through the process, explaining how I could publish my book via a self-publishing website, and how I could write about my passions and interests.
A few years ago I happened to read a Greek story of Psyche and Cupid and was deeply moved by it. The story was about trust and faith, and I still remember what Cupid said to Psyche near the end: “Believing is seeing.”
I interpreted this sentence as an axiom. Believing is the first step to truly understanding anything in the world. Contrary to the commonplace phrase “seeing is believing,” believing can offer a whole new perspective. After all, we must first believe in ourselves to achieve incredible things, just as blind musicians learn to play music without looking at the score.
"Believing is the first step to truly understanding anything in the world."
I was so inspired that I decided to use the phrase “believing is seeing” as the title for my book. Then I contemplated how I could use the story of Psyche and Cupid. Faith was an important theme, so I linked it with my passion for music and my interest in the blind. I also decided to incorporate my own faith of Christianity.
Soon a plot emerged: A story about a blind boy who needed faith to fulfill his dream of becoming a musician. How could you play music without seeing the music score? It is because music is born within. How do I know if God is there or not? I do not, but I must believe in order to recognize his presence.
My supervisor was pleased with this concept. Throughout the year, I wrote the book, dedicating a significant amount of time to researching, writing, and editing. And the publication process was just as demanding. However, in the end, I had written and published a 126-page novella I was proud of. In order to fulfill the “so what” factor, I decided to order my published books, sell them for five dollars each to people I knew, and donate the money collected to the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. This was rewarding because I knew that I had made at least a small difference in my community.
However, my journey did not end there. To my surprise, this year my book was accepted for publishing by one of the leading publishing companies in Korea called Crayon House. The book is scheduled to come out in the next few months. I discovered that the people of the publishing company really liked the ideas and plot of my book and thought it would be a great inspiration to children in Korea. It was also decided that all the money earned from selling these books be donated to the blind foundation in Korea. I was surprised that I could even make a difference in other nations, and I hope that my book can inspire young children, disabled or not, to dream, have faith, and strive to reach their full potential.
Helen Keller, my central inspiration, once said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.”
Writing about the blind, and using my written work to help and support them, was truly invaluable to me. Through this important moment I realized it was also significant to take the perspective of blind people. I came to recognize that things we cannot see are in fact the most wonderful in life. I was able to “see” from a different, revolutionized, viewpoint and realized how indirect ways of showing compassion can be so rewarding. Making a difference in even a small community was one epitome of such wonders.
I am so glad I pursued my personal project and chose a “so what” factor that focused on the blind. I was able to change into a more altruistic and empathetic person who came to understand and interact with different people, such as the blind. Through this experience I will be able to approach seemingly distant people in society and learn to understand them better.
My book may be neither the most impressive nor the most inspirational work, but I’m proud of it because it has made a difference. Above all, I hope people are moved by the title — that believing is, in fact, seeing. Because once you believe, you will see a whole new world.
Jung Woo Bae is 15 and in the 11th grade in New Zealand. His hobbies include playing basketball, playing the violin and piano, and being in the beautiful outdoors of his country. He has a passion for both music and literature and hopes to study medicine and fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor.
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