Sometimes strangers can become friends.
Last week, 28-year-old Eric Haralson went to McDonald’s in Noblesville, Indiana with the sole intention of eating breakfast alone. Little did he know that as soon as he sat down — he would obtain company.
A 70-year-old woman named Jan approached Haralson in the restaurant and asked to join him for breakfast.
Haralson responded with an enthusiastic yes.
“My reply was ‘of course’ because that’s just who I am,” Haralson told Today Food. “So she grabbed her food, I pushed her chair out for her and introduced myself.”
After she sat down, both of them spent the next 45 minutes engaging in conversations about life and appreciating each other’s company.
Haralson spoke of his girlfriend and son and Jan spoke of going to church each Sunday and of her artist days.
After breakfast and conversations, Haralson walked her to her car and exchanged phone numbers with the desire to have breakfast again.
Later, Haralson saw a picture of him and Jan on Facebook. A school teacher named Amanda Marquell Craft snapped a photo of their exchange and published it to social media — praising Haralson for his compassion. The photo has been shared thousands of times.
“Shout out to this guy! This elderly lady (seemed to be a little lonely) came up to him and asked if she could sit with him,” Craft wrote.
“My friends and I watched him introduce himself and shake her hand. They talked and laughed together like they were friends. They didn’t know each other and they couldn’t be more different. But today they shared a meal together and it touched our hearts.”
David Leigh, a friend of Jan’s, commented on Haralson’s FB page also expressing his adoration for Haralson’s kindness.
“I know you made Jan’s day that morning of meeting her and allowing her to sit at your table,” Leigh wrote. “I don’t know if you are religious, but she may have been your guardian angel making a visit with you to see if you loved your fellow man… that was a blessed thing you did and keep doing them. God loves you. You truly are a gentleman. My best to you and your future.”
Haralson was glad to have shared a meal with her and was happy to have inspired many people, but he is most glad to have a new friend.
Jan “just wanted some conversation,” according to Haralson, but now her request has sparked interest in many people to lend a helping hand, be kind people, and share their own stories of sitting down with strangers.
He even expressed his admiration for her and exchanged her words of wisdom with Today Food. “She is a wonderful woman,” Haralson said. “She mentioned many times how we all should love one another. And how we should not judge anyone because you never know how their day is going and what they’ve been through.”
Since last Thursday, Haralson had left Jan a voicemail asking to have breakfast with her again and expressing their newfound fame. He still has yet to reconnect with her.
“I’ll keep trying,” he said. “I know if we had forever, she would have a story for me for everyday.”
Emmy Award- winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan was scared for her life when she met with Neo-Nazis for the first time.
Her fear perpetuated her. As Khan filmed members of the group, some of them followed her around, threatening to kill her if she made one wrong move.
“In my mind, I was just thinking if anything happens right now, which it probably will, they could just bury me right here and nobody would ever know,” Khan said.
Despite her fear and distrust and dislike from the neo-Nazis, she wanted to know why men could hate so much.
“I decided to pick up my camera and go and see if I could sit down with people who feel this intense dislike, or even hatred, towards people like me,” Khan told Peace News.
The question of why men could hate so much, inspired her to release her film “White Right: meeting the Enemy.”
“For me it’s about primarily getting in touch with our common humanity,” Khan told Peace News. “To see if it’s possible for us to break down the prejudices that exist between groups.”
Her first interview was with Ken Parker, a member of the National Socialist Movement, the biggest white supremacist organization in America.
Parker’s bare torso was adorned with a swastika tattoo on the right of his chest and a Klan tattoo on the left.
Khan asked him, “Does it matter to you that I think what you are doing is wrong?”
Parker answered with a “no” and became increasingly frustrated and nervous as the questions rolled on. He admitted he was “not responsible for other people’s feelings.”
Khan went on to describe the experience. First describing it as awkward without the anticipated context of angry mobs shouting — but then conveyed a dynamic shift. She continued to be a listening ear.
Overtime, Khan interviewed other white supermarkets and neo-nazis, trying to figure out their motivations.
She figured out that most of the hate stemmed from the stories of their past rooted in abandonment, not fitting in, hopelessness, shame and humiliation, and longing to belong.
“They’re rejected for various reasons in other aspects of their lives,” she explained. “So whether it is feeling rejected by women, or by the job market, by society at large, or feeling as if you don’t measure up, not feeling good enough, shame, feeling humiliated, feeling emasculated.”
Khan added on stating that while there are hate groups — a lot of their actions are driven by love — a love for fellow members of the group who have given them a sense of family and a sense of purpose.
After Khan interviewed Parker and others like him, she felt a sense of liberation.
“It reminded me that they are just people, they are just human beings,” she said. “I have spent my entire life being stereotyped, I am not going to turn around and do that to somebody else.”
The Norwegian born filmmaker, who now resides in the UK recently earned an International Emmy award for her film and was previously nominated for BAFTA awards. Her film was released to Netflix in June and is streaming in America and the UK.
Parker eventually became touched by Khan’s actions. So touched, he removed all his hateful tattoos and renounced his membership in these organizations.
“He turned his back on the entire community,” Khan said. “He left them behind based on a principle he no longer wants to subscribe to.”
Overall, in reflecting on her documentary, Khan realized her project’s main aspect.
“We all have the capacity to effect change,” she said. “Just being human beings with each other, threatening each other with respect and dignity. You know how we feel when someone smiles at us or says something nice, it makes us feel great. The same if someone gives us a dirty look, it shifts how we feel.”
There have been several alerts right after a Youtube-famous-kiteboarding dog went missing from his family last week.
16-year-old Cameroon Maramendies began posting videos of Zeus, a seven-year-old Jack Russell Terrier kateboarding.
Maramendies, a kiteboarder who will compete for team USA in the 2020 Olympics was at a Kiteboarding event in St.Petersburg, Florida when his dog was kidnapped by an older gentleman in a gray Sedan.
Zeus accompanied the family to the event, but stayed behind in the car. When the family returned from the competition, Zeus was already gone.
The family contacted police, hired a pet detective and even offered a $3,500 reward for the return of Zeus; no questions asked. The family simply wanted their dog back.
Maramendies was overcome with worry until an individual helped out.
This individual was Miguel Camacho, an electrian’s apprentice who was studying in West Tampa Park, when he heard about the missing Jack Terrier.
During his study break, a friend of his shared the missing dog article on Facebook. Sparked by curiosity, he read through the article. Seconds later he saw the missing dog.
“I was sitting there reading the article,” Camacho told Tampa Bay Times. “The guy pulls up, gets out of the car, grabs the dog, and I’m thinking ‘man this looks just like that dog.”
After seeing the man in the gray Sedan get out — he snapped a picture of the pup and sent it to Maramendies’ phone, which was listed in a newspaper. The Olympian responded quickly, claiming the dog with the familiar black spots over his eyes, was Zeus.
Camacho did not know whether the man was armed or dangerous and police were not allowed to intervene unless the owner was present.
Maramendies asked Camacho if he could keep an eye on Zeus and his supposed abductor. Camacho heard the despair in the families voices.
Camacho only wanted to help the Maramendies family in any way he could.
When Camacho saw the abductor leave, he got into his car and followed the gray Sedan for a few miles. The abductor stopped, got out of the car and questioned why Camacho was following him.
“I believe the dog isn’t yours,” Camacho told the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m on the phone with his owner right now.”
Camacho then walked to the gray Sedan and shouted “Zesus.” The Jack Terrier jumped and ran to him. Later that afternoon, Camacho brought the dog to the car and left the scene. He then met with the Maramendies family in the Westshore Plaza parking lot.
Camacho learned about the reward when he met the family. He picked up the reward money and told Tampa Bay Times as to how he was going to spend the money.
“I have two kids,” he said. “I’m gonna do some Christmas shopping for them and put the rest in their savings accounts.”
Helen Trotman, Maramendies’ mom, was grateful for Camacho’s heroic and kind-hearted act.
“We are feeling completely exhausted, yet elated, and we are still pinching ourselves to see if we are dreaming,” Helen Trotman told Tampa Bay Times. “We are so fortunate Miguel was there and was willing to put himself into a possible dangerous situation to get their dog back.”
“Can you lend a hand?” was a question formulated by October Books, an independent bookstore, located in Southhampton, England.
Volunteers were needed for “heavy manual work.” It was crucial for volunteers to lift and carry boxes and office supplies.
Among the supplies included thousands of books.
This question came from October Books after they struggled to afford the rising rent prices of the store they occupied since 1970.
Aside from the price issue, the bookstore had to figure out how to move their stock without having to pay for expensive moving services.
This was when October Books pleaded for volunteers to form a chain between the old store and the new location.
At first only a few showed up, but to their astonishment — over 200 people lined up on the pavement to pass out 2,000 books.
“It was very moving,” Ms. Hynes, a bookstore employee told The New York Times, adding all employees “got choked up” over the community’s help.
Amy Brown, one of the store’s employees told NPR her stunned reaction to the turnout.
“I was handing books to people without actually seeing the entirety of it,” Brown said. “So it was only after about 20 minutes I actually went out to the road and saw the extent of the people.”
“We wanted something that was accessible for the whole family, for children and people who were older who wouldn’t necessarily be able to paint or move heavy pieces, to help out,” Ms. Hynes said.
Even passing pedestrians would jump in to help. Nearby cafe’s even brought teas and coffees for the volunteers.
“It was really sort of surprising and positive and just a really moving experience to see people chipping in because they wanted to help. And they wanted to be part of something bigger,” Brown told NPR.
Overall, the bookstore has bigger plans as well.
“The shop plans to sell the second floor of the former back building to a charity in Southampton to create supportive housing for homeless people and to create a community hub in the back,” Ms. Hynes said.
Last Week, 11 Jews were shot outside of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg.
Recently, two Muslim organizations, Celebrate Mercy and MPower Change have partnered to create a fundraising page for victims and families affected by the shooting.
Within six hours, the Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue reached it’s initial goal of $25,000.
On the fundraising page, Muslim-American speaker and activist Tarek El-Messidi wrote:
“We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us and send a powerful message of compassion through action.” He also quoted the Koran stating, “repel evil by that which is better.”
The purpose of the fundraiser is to meet the needs of the injured victims and grieving families. The funds will also go toward funeral expenses and medical bills.
“No amount of money will bring back their loved ones, but we do hope to lessen their burden in some way,” wrote El Messidi.
According to El Messidi who started the Muslim crowdfunding site called Launchgood, said 70% of people are Muslim while the other percentage make up those with different religious backgrounds.
He believes an attack on one religion is an attack on people from all backgrounds.
“In religion, we’re all worshipping a higher power, especially with our Jewish cousins,” El Messidi said.
“We share a lot theologically with the Jewish community and a foundational teaching is you never harm religious spaces — regardless if it’s a mosque, a temple, or church. One should never be worried about being harmed or killed in a place of worship.”
Despite a troubled world, from El Messidi’s perspective, he still believes responding to evil with good is an effective method.
“People have much more good than they have evil,” he said. “People are generally good-hearted and peaceful. When people get to know each other, things like this don’t happen.”
From a New York Times article, there have been dozens of candlelight vigils to show cohesion with the synagogue. Blood banks have also stayed open late to accommodate the crowd of donors.
Shay Khatiri, an Irianian-American man from Washington, DC created a Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds for the synagogue as well. In six days it has raised over $1 million. He said the donor page had similar results to the Launch Good Page.
“There are Steins and Bergs, and there are Mohammads. There are generic American names and there are Asian ones,” Khatiri said. “It is only fitting that Americans of all backgrounds — immigrant, native-born, Jewish, atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, etc. — are unfitting against this hateful act. America is beautiful!”
Ryan Chumberger, a supporter for Khatiri’s campaign wrote, “This is the least I can do to express my sympathy for the Jewish community and the Jewish people who have touched my life. You are a light in the world which will not be snuffed out by the jealous and hateful. We need to stand together against this and all attacks on our freedom to be ourselves and follow our conscience.”
Overall, The Launch Good campaign and other campaigns share this initial goal:
“While those senseless acts have filled us with sorrow, we reflect on the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina: a historical social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community. We are also inspired by the example of our Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, who stood up to pay respects for a passing funeral procession. When questioned on why he stood for a Jewish funeral, he responded, ‘is it not a human soul?’”