From the beginning, there was something about her.
I had spent several days at the National Opera Association conference in Houston with my composer friend Tony Plog, and each morning we would go down to the hotel lobby to get coffee and a quick bite to eat. We were greeted at the counter by a petite young woman in her twenties who had dark hair, a pretty smile, and a gaze that glowed. Fastened to her apron was a nametag: Marzia.
It became apparent that Marzia didn’t know much English, but that didn’t stop her from taking our orders and brightening our day.
On our final morning at the hotel, Tony and I met our friend Roger Stoner in the lobby. Roger had flown in from Kansas City to spend some time with us. We placed our orders with Marzia, who happily delivered our food, then the three of us found a table and had a great visit.
An hour later, Marzia came by to collect our dishes, and Roger, being Roger, introduced himself and asked where she was from. Afghanistan, she said. We learned she was alone in the U.S., trying to make her way. On her days off, she applied for schools and jobs. She wanted to be an electrical engineer.
To the astonishment of Marzia, Tony, and me, Roger said he had been mentoring a young man from Afghanistan named Ahmad Baset Azizi. Roger pulled out his phone, called Baset on FaceTime, and handed the phone to Marzia.
Her eyes shot open, and she began speaking quickly and excitedly, the way a parched traveler might gulp water at a stream. She laughed, and they talked and talked.
Baset had prepared for a career in international relations at the University of Kansas but had decided to work for a while at the Catholic Charities of Kansas City—an organization set up to help immigrants and others—as a way of passing along the help he had received. He took Marzia’s information and promised to be in touch.
When she hung up, her eyes were glistening, and so were ours. Something had happened, though we couldn’t yet be sure what it was or what form it would take.
Someone once told me, speaking of opportunities in life, “If a door opens, step through it.” That morning, a door had opened just a crack. Tony and I didn’t notice, but Roger did. He pushed, and light came flooding in. Then he stepped through, with Marzia at his side.