Friday, April 29, 2011


Mary Page - a lively Kenyan
woman now living in San Diego
Jambo! I was surprised to be welcomed with this Swahili greeting right here in San Diego by a Kenyan woman named Mary.

I was at the
San Diego Microfinance Summit yesterday, wandering through the vendor marketplace and sampling various ethnic foods from local restaurants run by new Americans from Ethiopia, Vietnam and Mexico. Mary smiled warmly and invited me into her stall to look at the jewelry she was selling. A black bracelet caught my attention, but I’ve been trying to reduce unnecessary spending, so wasn’t planning to buy anything. I changed my mind as this charming woman started sharing her story with me.

She had fled civil war in Liberia and come to San Diego with her husband a few years back. Sadly, her husband passed away soon after arriving, and she needed to find a way to support her children. She was connected with a local organization that extended a loan to her to start a small business. She began selling African art and jewelry in order to share the warmth and richness of African culture with Americans. And every item sold not only helps her make a living to support her children here in San Diego, but provides jobs for women in Kenya so they can support their children as well. In the middle of sharing her story, Mary exclaimed “Praise God for this beautiful country. May His blessings pour out abundantly on this country and its people for taking us in and giving us opportunity.”

I was moved by this woman. Her smile was infectious, her spirit of gratitude was inspiring, her warmth was delightful and her hard work was paying off. I didn’t have to get on a plane to go see the power of small business transforming lives like I have so many times in the past. I simply had to look in the right place, right here in my own backyard. I walked out of her market stall with my heart full and a lovely black bracelet on my wrist - a tangible reminder each time I wear it of this remarkable woman who was given a hand up and is gratefully extending that warm hand to others.

Who has given you a hand up in life, or opened a door that has led to greater success? Why not take a moment to express your gratitude to them, and then extend that hand up to someone else around you.

And if you’re in the San Diego area, look for Mary’s stall at the North Park Farmer’s market or check out her web site