A Muslim family got a hateful letter, and over 100 people answered it with kindness.

The Samel family immigrated to the U.S. from Sudan in 2010. They became naturalized citizens in May 2015 and moved into a new house in Iowa City, Iowa, that December.

The house had actually been built for them with help from Habitat for Humanity and as part of the city's National Day of Service and Remembrance in honor of 9/11. The Muslim family — Amar Samel and his wife, Muna Abdalla, along with their four children — were happily settling into their new American lives, including jobs and schooling.

They'd been living in the house 11 months when Amar Samel returned home from a memorial service to find a less-than-welcoming note on the door:

“You can all go home now. We don’t want (a racial epithet) and terrorists here. #Trump.”

Photo via Stephen Mally/The (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Gazette, used with permission.


That was Nov. 11, 2016, the Friday after Election Day. Judging by the hashtag stamped on the end of the hateful message, the timing was no coincidence.

Unfortunately, when Samel called the police, they were not particularly helpful at first. According to Samel, the officer he spoke with on the phone declined to visit the house or take a formal statement and told Samel to simply take the note down and throw it away.

"This disappointed me more than the action itself because I was looking for kind of support," Samel told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. "Because the police obviously represent for us, represent somebody supporting you. The law. The power. So nobody’s above the law."

The police administration has since assigned a detective to investigate the case. The Iowa City Area CrimeStoppers also stepped in to offer a $1,000 reward for information about the culprits behind the note.

Photo via Stephen Mally/The (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Gazette, used with permission.

But as word of the incident began to spread around Iowa City, the Samels' fellow Iowans found other ways to show their support.

Strangers and friends alike banded together to flood the family with neighborly love and true hospitality, sending them cookies, cards, flowers, and balloons and chalking affectionate messages on their driveway.

"I'm glad your [sic] my brother's best friend," wrote one classmate to the Samels' son, Mohammed.

"You are very nice people. You should stay," someone scribbled on the asphalt outside their home. "We're glad you're here!" another wrote.

Photo via Stephen Mally/The (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Gazette, used with permission.

"You hear about these things happening, but you don’t really know if it’s true. When I heard people say this was their neighbor, it really hit home," one Iowan told The Gazette after dropping off a flower bouquet at the Samel family home the Monday after the incident.

Photo via Stephen Mally/The (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Gazette, used with permission.

Sarah Widdick Shaw saw the Samels' heartbreaking story in The Gazette and shared it with the famous secret Facebook group Pantsuit Nation.

Shaw urged her fellow group members to keep the lovefest going for the Samel family by sending them even more notes, cards, and gifts through The Gazette, whose address she included in the post.

"I only hope that there were enough to make a difference for them," she said. "It's not much, sending letters of support, but gezzus we have to do something to counteract all this hate."

Within the hour, the post had been shared by more than a hundred people. Other users shared photos of their cards, letters, baked goods, and handmade gifts such as stickers and temporary tattoos. Some people even made donations to Habitat for Humanity because they'd helped to build the family's home.

Photo via Stephen Mally/The (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Gazette, used with permission.

By the Monday before Thanksgiving, The Gazette had received more than a hundred cards and letters, all looking to be delivered to the Samels.

The family was overwhelmed by the support. When The Gazette asked if the family wanted to respond to this outpouring of support, Amar Samel answered, "Tell them we are OK. Everything will be OK. We are relieved by knowing that, this is life, always there is good and bad, but the good is always more."

Just a few of the cards received at the Gazette office. Image via the Samel family.

Recent events may have invigorated a new surge of hate in America, but it's inspired even more people to show how big their hearts can be.

"Hopefully the next generation will have more warmth in their hearts," Sarah Widdick Shaw said after seeing the response to her Facebook post. Though maybe that warmth is already there. We just need to make sure we're actively, openly sharing it for all the world to feel and see.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.