More

How I responded when my Muslim students asked, 'Why does he hate us?'

Getting out of your comfort zone can be an eye-opening experience.

How I responded when my Muslim students asked, 'Why does he hate us?'

“Ms. Kayla, why does he hate us?”

All photos courtesy of the author.

That’s one of the many questions I was bombarded with by my Indonesian high school students the day after President Donald Trump was elected. I’d spent the morning talking and crying with my sister, a New York transplant from Texas, about Trumpism, the state of America, and what I was supposed to say to a classroom full of Muslim teenagers.


“Sometimes, people hate what they don’t understand,” I responded shakily.

I chose to teach in Indonesia because I felt it imperative to spend a year in a country completely different from the Western world I’d inhabited for 24 years. I didn't know that when it would be time for me to leave, the home I was returning to would also look and feel drastically different.

I didn't know how much living in Indonesia would prepare me to go back and fight for change.

The population in Indonesia is about 88.1% Muslim, making it the largest Muslim-majority country in the world. Islamic teachings are a part of most schools, and the intersections of culture and religion cross one another in Indonesian communities.  

Instead of quivering down and trying to save face, I’ve been honest with my students about the state of Islam in America and how people are treated in different areas. In turn, my students have been honest with me. Their candidness has made way for a deeper understanding of Islam and a desire to help Americans understand the importance of inclusion for all religions.

My students have discussed what being a Muslim means and its importance to them. They’ve discussed how America — a country many of them perceive to be amazing — is a place they assumed everyone was welcome. Until this year.

That’s what America is supposed to be. That's what we used to be. That's what we should be.

“Ms. Kayla, will we ever be able to come visit you in America?”  

Religion is often a part of coursework and Indonesian school days.

Every week, I have the unique opportunity of not only teaching these students English, but learning about and understanding Islam from a perspective outside of America. While I knew about Islam, I’d never been around Muslim people outside of a few interactions with university colleagues and teachers. In Indonesia, I’m immersed in a culture that integrates Muslim identity into daily life. I’ve learned more about the history of Islam, how it ended up in Indonesia, and the role it plays in government and society.

In engaging with a religion and culture that is unlike mine, I’ve been able to see more of the complexities of our world, which has led to more understanding and even more questions.

I've been reminded of the importance of faith in communities across the globe. How the ability to express that faith free of hatred and judgement is a human right that should be unconditionally upheld in a nation that claims to be free for all.

Seeing my students learn and excel has only enhanced my desire to see the beauty and work of immigrants across America. Cultural exchange is one of the best ways to gain understanding. To block people from entering our nation because of religion or race is not only morally wrong — it puts our nation at the disadvantage of missing out on learning from different points of view.

“Ms. Kayla, what will you do when you go home?”  

Over the past few months, protesters have organized across the country to demand change and acceptance, and I’ve learned just how much our country must grow and learn to unite.  

This is the moment when we get to decide our role in history, when empathy must morph into advocacy and where actions must speak louder than words. Our diverse world deserves it.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less
Terence Power / TikTok

A video of a busker in Dublin, Ireland singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" to a young boy with autism is going viral because it's just so darn adorable. The video was filmed over a year ago by Terence Power, the co-host of the popular "Talking Bollox Podcast."

It was filmed before face masks were required, so you can see the boy's beautiful reaction to the song.

Power uploaded it to TikTok because he had just joined the platform and had no idea the number of lives it would touch. "The support on it is unbelievable. I posted it on my Instagram a while back and on Facebook and the support then was amazing," he told Dublin Live.

"But I recently made TikTok and said I'd share it on that and I'm so glad I did now!" he continued.

Keep Reading Show less
True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

A teacher's message has gone viral after he let his student sleep in class — for the kindest reason.

Teachers spend time preparing lesson plans and trying to engage students in learning. The least a kid can do is stay awake in class, right?

But high school English teacher Monte Syrie sees things differently. In a Twitter thread, he explained why he didn't take it personally when his student Meg fell asleep — and why he didn't wake her up.

Keep Reading Show less
via Ken Lund / Flickr

The dark mountains that overlook Provo, Utah were illuminated by a beautiful rainbow-colored "Y" on Thursday night just before 8 pm. The 380-foot-tall "Y" overlooks the campus of Brigham Young University, a private college owned by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), commonly known as Mormons.

The display was planned by a group of around 40 LGBT students to mark the one-year anniversary of the university sending out a letter clarifying its stance on homosexual behavior.

"One change to the Honor Code language that has raised questions was the removal of a section on 'Homosexual Behavior.' The moral standards of the Church did not change with the recent release of the General Handbook or the updated Honor Code, " the school's statement read.

Keep Reading Show less