What happens when a Muslim center opens up across from a Christian church? Community.
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It all started when the Memphis Islamic Center purchased land across the street from Heartsong Church.

It took Pastor Steve Stone of Heartsong Church by surprise. "When I saw that, my stomach kind of tightened up. ... I felt that ignorance and that fear," he said.

He wasn't sure how to respond. But more than that, he wasn't sure how his congregation would respond. Would they welcome their new neighbors with open arms? Or would their arrival only lead to backlash?


Like Stone, Dr. Bashar Shala of the Memphis Islamic Center was unsure of what to expect.

The goal of the Islamic center was to create a place for people to "pray and play" and have a sense of community, but he knew they'd likely face resistance from the other churches in the area. The site would be surrounded by more than five Christian churches on what's been referred to as "Church Road," so the newcomers were sure to be noticed — especially at a time when mosque construction projects across the country were facing opposition.

"It is a difficult time for Muslims in America," he said. "We did not expect to be welcomed."

Some members of Heartsong Church were clearly uncomfortable.

"Me and my wife both were thinking about leaving church because I just did not accept what was going on," said Mark Sharpe, a member of the church.

Sharpe looked to Stone and asked him what he should do. The reply? Just read the gospels. Which Sharpe did. And they helped him reach a pretty emotional realization about the situation.

"I figured out I was the problem," Sharpe said. "What was going on with the world today, I was the problem."

Things started to take a turn during the holy month of Ramadan.

Shala wanted to kick it off with the grand opening of the new complex. But with delays in the construction, he knew they weren’t going to make it in time. So he reached out to Stone, asking if they could pray in Heartsong Church while they waited. He figured his congregation would only pray there for a few nights.

They ended up staying at Heartsong Church the entire month of Ramadan.

All images via Starbucks.

The experience brought both communities closer together unlike anything else.

"Ramadan brought us much closer. People started knowing each other on a personal level," Shala said.

Interacting with a group of people they probably wouldn't have otherwise and getting to know them as individuals helped some members of the church confront biases and prejudices. Sharpe explained, "It's kind of like my world got bigger."

Now the two groups work and socialize together frequently.

They support those in need by doing coat and food drives together.

In honor of 9/11 every year, they have done a blood drive and shared their facilities.

They’ve even combined their Thanksgiving dinners into one giant celebration.

And in spring, they throw an amazing picnic to gather the entire community.

Their inspirational friendship serves as an important reminder for all of us.

Even though about 1% of Americans (3.2 million people) are Muslim, they're still a very polarizing topic in the United States. But at the end of the day, who we pray to (or pray with) shouldn’t get in the way of loving and accepting each other.

Simply put, we’re all just people, ready to welcome new friends into the neighborhood.

Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
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When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

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"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

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via Lina Trochez / Unsplash

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This year more than ever, many families are anticipating an empty dinner table. Shawn Kaplan lived this experience when his father passed away, leaving his mother who struggled to provide food for her two children. Shawn is now a dedicated volunteer and donor with Second Harvest Food Bank in Middle Tennessee and encourages everyone to give back this holiday season with Amazon.

Watch the full story:

Over one million people in Tennessee are at risk of hunger every day. And since the outbreak of COVID-19, Second Harvest has seen a 50% increase in need for their services. That's why Amazon is Delivering Smiles and giving back this holiday season by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Second Harvest to feed those hit the hardest this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local food bank or charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic and it feels like disinformation and denial have spread as quickly as the virus itself. Unfortunately, disinformation and denial during a pandemic is deadly. Literally. People who refuse to accept the reality we're living in, who go about daily life as if nothing unusual were happening, who won't wear a mask or keep their distance from people, are preventing communities from being able to keep the pandemic under control—with very real consequences.

An ER nurse in South Dakota shared her experience treating COVID patients—some of whom refuse to believe they have COVID—and it's really shocking. One might think that the virus would become real to people if they were directly affected by it, but apparently that's just not true for some. As Jodi Doering wrote on Twitter:

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That was the world Dan Levy grew up in. The Schitt's Creek actor and co-creator was born in 1983, and on the day of the series finale of Schitt's Creek, his mom Deborah Divine shared a tweet that perfectly encapsulates not only the changes we've seen in society since then, but the impact Levy himself has had on that world.

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