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  • Lorraine Johnson

[59] Fully Present

Each day, he would show up at our office—optimistically tucked away in a corner of Mozambique's capital, Maputo. We invited him to dream, to learn, to make, to sell and grow. And also to come sit—any time—and weave through the many lifestyle magazines there for him—and others—to take time to reimagine how his talented hands could capture the market and propel him into his future. We were impressed. He would come spontaneously and often. Until one day, and then another, he did not.

So we drove out to his home on the outskirts of the sprawling city, where he lived with his wife and children on a dry, well organized plot of land, with chickens, tools, and small piles of precious wood, and small thatched structures and trees budding through hard soil worked by eager hands. Upon arrival, he proudly showed us the beginnings of a new structure that used cement blocks to showcase and store his newly inspired wares—a storefront, so to speak. He said it was the most important and now the largest structure on his land, even more important than his house—for it gave him life.

As we slowly moved along his talking journey, with laughter filling the air while his children playfully followed us around, we came to the jewel of the unfolding mystery—a solar panel charging one of his most important assets—a cell phone! His reliable connection to the broader world—more contact meant more orders—for his growing collection of hand carved decor. And there it was revealed—his extra trips to the office driven by the small electrical plug conveniently located next to our gathered chairs and magazines. After all, a charged phone meant he was fully present—never to miss the next call from us—inviting him to a business training, the opportunity to work with a designer, to sell more products—or another 'to be' client, leading to a new order.

And as we propelled him into the world market, right to the cover of Elle Decor, he grew his business, contracted more artisans and invested. Beauty emerged through gaining knowledge and access, the simplicity of a single solar panel and the ingenuity of a young tenacious man, now able to vision forward and thrive after living through years of war that forced a life of day-to-day thinking and survival.

It was a few years into the new millennium. And his name was Mabanda. And I was there, smiling broadly. And he was there—a shining star that dared to rise—to dream, to trust, and do the work.


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