Today I’m partnering with Interfaith Youth Core in light of Better Together Day, where students can share their stories about how, in America, we are truly better together. You can learn more about Better Together Day here. Names in the story below have been changed.
Four months ago, on Election Night, 2016, I walked down the hallway to write on my friend’s door.
Just a few hours earlier, she and I had been in the dorm TV room downstairs with all our friends as we anxiously watched the election results come in. At Wellesley College, Hillary Clinton’s alma mater, we were ready for a win. My friends were in their class colors; one was on the phone with her mom, who was herself a Wellesley alum. Another had brought her little sister. I was wearing the dress I wore for my naturalization ceremony. We were ready to celebrate.
But as the picture became clearer and clearer, the mood shifted. Cheers turned into desperate statements of reassurance. As the hours passed, some of us cried or comforted each other. Aisha, one of my closest friends, went to bed early.
Every Thursday all semester, Aisha and I had gone out to Starbucks to talk over tea about everything from college to the future to our faiths. Aisha is Muslim and I am Christian; as the election neared and anti-Muslim rhetoric continued gaining a national platform, I would ask how she and her family were doing. They were well, she said. They were safe.
On election night, not long after Aisha went to bed, it became obvious how the election would swing. I went upstairs to call my parents, but first I stopped by Aisha’s door. I assumed she was already asleep, so rather than knock, I left a message on her whiteboard. I told her I loved her, that she was valued, and that I would stand with her whenever she needed it. I went back to my room.
Just a few minutes later, I heard her knock at my door. Aisha stood in my doorway, wrapped in a blanket, with tears in her eyes. We hugged and cried. We made jokes. We made promises. In the weeks after that night, I joined Aisha on a trip to her mosque, where I met her family and learned more about her faith. The following week, she helped me co-host an Advent dinner.
My life is better because Aisha is in it. She inspires me with her kindness and passion, she makes my sides hurt with laughter, and she makes me a better person just by being my friend. Now that I’ve graduated from college, Aisha and I Skype every week. We still talk about everything, sometimes for so long that our cheeks hurt from smiling. We are better together.
Aisha and and her family are still well and safe, thank goodness. But the persecution and religious bigotry that we feared on election night is still happening, and with a greater frequency than before. One of my favorite organizations, Interfaith Youth Core — who I’ve written about before — is taking a stand against religious discrimination by hosting their yearly Better Together Day. On April 6th, students around the country will be sharing the ways that, we in America are “better together,” signing a pledge to fight religious bigotry wherever they see it.
In honor of Better Together Day, I want to encourage you to do three things.
- Learn. Do some reading about a belief system or faith other than your own. Better Together Day's website has a learning toolkit that makes finding resources about less-appreciated worldviews easy for you.
- Share. Spread knowledge about great interfaith leaders who inspire you, or share your story of why you believe we are Better Together. You can also pitch your story to INTER, Interfaith Youth Core’s magazine.
- Act. Join a service project, host a Talk Better Together event , and sign the pledge against religious bigotry on Better Together Day’s site.
Aisha has made me and my life better just by being in it. In the same way, the lives and contributions of people of different faith traditions help make America stronger and more beautiful. If you agree, I hope you’ll take action via the links above. And let me know in the comments: