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"I almost choked on my Cheerios," says Nancy Long. "Just the expression on Aiden's face - crying and crying. I couldn't get the picture out of my mind all day."

About a week after Tropical Storm Sandy ravaged the New York metropolitan area, Nancy Long was eating breakfast and reading the newspaper in her home in Hicksville, New York, when she saw a photo that put a lump in her throat and an ache in her heart. In the photograph (below), a five-year-old boy, Aiden Guirl, sobs in his mother’s arms as all of his toys and other possessions are loaded into a garbage truck. The home of Grant and Kelly Guirl in Broad Channel, Queens, had been flooded with five feet of seawater mixed with oil from their furnace, and nearly everything the family owned had been destroyed, including everything in Aiden’s Toy Story-themed bedroom.

Long was moved to action. She and the members of the Islamic Center of Long Island, in Westbury, New York, where Long is a volunteer, collected donations to buy new toys and other household items for the Guirl family. After contacting Kelly Guirl through the newspaper, Long and other Islamic Center members met the family this week and presented them with the gifts.

The Guirls were overwhelmed by the outreach from total strangers. Along with food, cleaning products and other household items, were plenty of toys wrapped in festive Christmas wrapping paper. Long also bought Aiden all three Toy Story DVDs to replace his that were destroyed by the flood, and gave his sister, Briana, a gift card to the Build-A-Bear Workshop.

In the so-called Season of Giving, it’s good to be reminded that no religion has a monopoly on compassion and charity, and that, despite the efforts of those who use religious differences as an incitement to hatred and violence, being good people and good neighbors is, at its heart, what religion – any religion – is all about.
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