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  • Lorraine Johnson

[125] Tomorrow

There was a young Mozambican man who carved beautiful birds out of wood. They stood tall and stately—some with elegant bent beaks, all full of dazzling colors that woke up the night. Others made similar birds that sold in street markets, alongside his own, but none were as special or as tenderly formed. He dreamed of other markets far from his shore and growing his business so he could be much more. So we worked with him, and refined his collection and off to New York went his family of birds. They arrived with a story, quality and fair pricing. And they flew off the trade floor and orders poured in. And his step became lighter and his eyes filled with hope.

Time passed. And an annual, local holiday fair was about to be born. A different kind of fair. It was given a name—As Mãos—The Hands. It was a market where you could find new, unique products not found on the street. It was just for artisans. It was higher end—slightly elevated—with beautiful presentation, stories and labels, informed pricing and service and the opportunity to meet the maker, without crowds and negotiations. And the fair was juried. And the artisans were mentored. And they had to pay for their spot—though, intentionally, not necessary before opening day, nor at the end of the first day, but yes by the end of the final day.

Well this young man dreamed again—of his birds making an appearance and flying off the table. After all, he saw it happen just months before on the other side of the world. Even though his were the most striking of all birds, the answer was no—the birds were already in the market and found on local streets, so why would someone come indoors and pay more? Yes it worked in New York, but they were new for that market and made people say "Wow, I have never seen these before!" But the young man pleaded and he pleaded some more, and a good case he made, so a space was offered and plans were made.

And as the first day of the fair neared its end, artisans lined up to willfully pay their fair share. The sales were good and they understood. But the young man with the carved birds had not sold a single one. And he approached me, drawing near, and he said, "I see now. Thank you!" We smiled together. No need to pay, I told him. He had paid already. And we would see him tomorrow.


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