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.

Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

Screenshots via @castrowas95/Twitter

In the Pacific Northwest, orca sightings are a fairly common occurrence. Still, tourists and locals alike marvel when a pod of "sea pandas" swim by, whipping out their phones to capture some of nature's most beautiful and intelligent creatures in their natural habitat.

While orcas aren't a threat to humans, there's a reason they're called "killer whales." To their prey, which includes just about everything that swims except humans, they are terrifying apex predators who hunt in packs and will even coordinate to attack whales several times their own size.

So if you're a human alone on a little platform boat, and a sea lion that a group of orcas was eyeing for lunch jumps onto your boat, you might feel a little wary. Especially when those orcas don't just swim on by, but surround you head-on.

Watch exactly that scenario play out (language warning, if you've got wee ones you don't want f-bombed):

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