Fear is powerful. So are doughnuts. Here's how one woman is using them.

'I went in with a super open heart, with a super open mind, and just let happen what was going to happen.'

This is Mona Haydar. Care for a doughnut? Cup of coffee?

Photo from Mona Haydar, used with permission.


Earlier this month, in response to some anti-Muslim rhetoric that's been making the rounds, she decided to set up shop outside a Cambridge, Massachusetts, library to offer up some free coffee, doughnuts, and conversation.

"Today I stepped out of my comfort zone and stood out in a public space holding a box of donuts in front of signs that my husband Sebastian made," she wrote on her Facebook wall.

The response from the people who stopped to talk to her was overwhelming — in a good way.

"Everyone who stopped to talk to us was so kind and sweet," she wrote. "'Thanks for doing this' was the most common comment and often followed by, 'I'm sorry about what's happening in our country right now. It makes me so sad.' One woman was on the verge of tears and wanted to know when we were coming back so she could bring a box of donuts for us to give out."

"What's happening in our country" is scary.

Ever since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, life has become increasingly difficult for Muslims like Mona. Anti-Islamic sentiment is running rampant; with mosques burning and regular, everyday people being stalked by armed "protesters," it's bad news.

Armed protesters stage a demonstration in front of the Islamic Association of North Texas at the Dallas Central Mosque on Dec. 12, 2015, in Richardson, Texas. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

But Mona's determined to not let fear win.

And that starts with education.

"Initially, I thought I was going to get a lot of negativity, we were going to face a lot of Islamophobia. And I was going into it with that mindset," Mona told NPR. "Then I decided, you know what, I really can't do this if I'm expecting people to be negative. Because I'm not a negative person. I'm a super bubbly, happy person. I'm really friendly, I'm really nice, I'm really smiley; why should I expect anything less from other folks?"

Photo from Mona Haydar, used with permission.

In addition to answering people's questions in person, she fielded some questions over on her Facebook page as well.

One person asked for clarifications about sections of the Quran that call for violence.

Mona replied:

"I believe in Love and a God who inspires me to Love more deeply and more compassionately! Thanks for asking!"

Another asked why Muslim leaders "aren't doing more to end the violence/thinking of the radical members of your religion who believe in all the killing/terrorism?"

Mona answered:

"I'm not seeing a good answer for that either! But since most Muslims are normal and super nonviolent, we can't very well just bomb them ... that's kind of counter productive because that's what they're doing, bombing people I mean. I believe in Love! And [the] power of Love! I truly believe that when we move from a place of Love, we can collectively heal the hurt in the world! I don't mean it in any kind of abstract way. I mean it in a brain power, centering all our brain function, all the time creating new neural pathways and synaptic responses of LOVE!"

Another asked how non-Muslims can help break down the rough climate they find themselves in.

Mona wrote:

"We're doing all the goodness right now by having this conversation and inviting more love into our lives. That's all you and I have control over right now and if we can help ourselves embody and be LOVE then this love will heal the world! I agree! Make love! Not war!"


Photo from Mona Haydar, used with permission.

Of course, Mona can't speak for all Muslims — but that's kind of the point.

Her personal interpretation of her religion may not perfectly align with someone else's. The problem is that, too often, we look at the acts of a few and attribute them to an entire group of people. ISIS doesn't speak for all Muslims any more than the Westboro Baptist Church or Army of God speak for all Christians. We can't be so afraid and distrusting of one another. That's not what this country is supposed to stand for.

Don't give in to hate. Don't give in to fear. Pull up a chair and have a cup of coffee with someone who believes in something different from you; you'll be surprised what you can learn.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

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Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

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Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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