From the Majestic Mountains of Hindukush to the Rolling Hills of the Ozarks

OCT 12 2023

Reflections and Photography by Khalid Ahmadzai

In late August 2023, I took a few days away from work to reflect in the mountains of Colorado, a place that strikingly resembles my birthplace, Afghanistan.

Nestled amidst the rugged mountains of Colorado, I found a serene backdrop for deep reflection on the tumultuous journey of the past two years. It was a moment to pause and ponder, not just for myself, but for the thousands of Afghans who left their homeland in search of safety, for the millions who remain within the uncertain future of Afghanistan, and for the countless more who watched the fall of the Republic unfold on their TV screens. These moments left me with an array of profound thoughts and emotions.

Two years ago in August, the very fabric of the Republic that held so much promise seemed to unravel before our very eyes, plunging us into an abyss of uncertainty.

Sitting 7,000 miles away here in Fayetteville, I felt powerless, as if the country I held dear was both coming undone and being done away with in slow motion. Amidst this turmoil and heartache, a small American town, tucked away in the Ozarks, extended a welcoming hand to one of the very first Afghan evacuees, a mere two months after the fall of Afghanistan. Since that moment, my remarkable colleagues and the community in NWA have opened their hearts and homes to more than 150 Afghans. These courageous souls were uprooted from their homes and thrust into the daunting challenge of starting anew. Their journey has been marked by pain, and it continues to be laden with challenges. Yet, the resilience of the community shines brightly.

NWA provided more than shelter; they offered warmth, friendship, and a profound sense of belonging. In doing so, they granted these individuals a chance to rebuild their lives, to heal from the wounds of displacement, and to rekindle hope in their hearts.

As I reflect on the summer that has passed and look ahead with a renewed sense of purpose, I acknowledge that the road ahead is uncertain. However, I draw inspiration from the indomitable spirit of our community here in northwest Arkansas. Our new neighbor’s stories and experiences are woven into the tapestry of our community, enriching our shared narrative.

May we continue to find strength in unity and extract wisdom from the lessons of our collective past. May our compassion guide us to extend a helping hand to those in need, not just in words but in heartfelt actions. May we uphold the ideals of southern hospitality, not as a mere magazine cover feature, but as an enduring practice at the extended bench of our dining tables.

In the face of adversity, let us remember that even in the darkest hours, the human spirit has the remarkable capacity to shine brightly, offering solace and a beacon of hope to those in dire need.

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