Last week, on what was possibly the coldest day in MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s commercial city, Blantyre (it must have been on Monday), I walked past a woman selling cassava, tangerines and bananas seated near the entrance to our office.Ã‚Â It was around 5:15 pm. She had a baby on her back and was wearing a flimsy windbreaker. She was sitting on the cold pavement as showers drizzled softly around her and a chilly wind blew back and forth. She seemed unfazed by the cold, perhaps even toughened by it and only stopped what she was doing to check on her baby and make sure it was okay.
She tried to make eye contact with passers-by in a bid to get them to buy something from her. She would probably leave her spot at 7 pm or thereabout, after selling off everything and making a bit of money to take back home.
As I huddled myself up against the cold and walked briskly to the warmth of my car, I turned back to look at the woman and felt something tug at my heartstrings. I found myself imagining what her life was like, whether she was married and if her husband was still alive, how many children she had and how many mouths she had to feed when she got back home.
I imagined where her home was and how she would get there at such a late hour. How much money did she make selling seasonal items? Did it make a significant difference in her familyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s livelihood or was it the only livelihood her family had?
And her child, would she make enough money to send that baby to school? Would he/she grow up to be an office clerk and live a bit better than the mother had or would he/she give up on the world, drop school altogether and become a vendor or some ruffian who roamed the streets? All this passed through my mind in a space of about a minute or so.
As I backed out of the parking lot and made my way home, I reflected on the womanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tenacity. After all, she is not the only person that sells goods near our office entrance. For as long as I can remember, a couple of women come through each evening to sell whatever is in season; cassava, sugarcane, groundnuts, tangerines, mangoes and other such goods. However, on this cold evening, all the others had stayed home and only the woman in question braved the chilly weather. And when I spoke with her the next day, she told me that she had managed to sell everything in record time because she was the only sales-person there.
Whether she was driven by desperation, or is a shrewd business-woman who saw a window of opportunity through going out in weather that her competitors would shun, I was touched by the womanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s determination.
It was a small example of the fact that in life, work and business, we ought to weigh situations, seek out opportunities and grab them as soon as possible. Where others see destruction, we might want to flip the coin and draw out something we can feed on for our own good.
It also taught me that in everything we do, unwavering determination is essential. In this life, we just canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t afford to give ourselves a day off or slacken, lest someone else snatches openings from us from right under our noses!