In an age of dwindling internet accountability and omnipresent online hate, Qasim Rashid and Oz Dillon's story is a refreshing display of tech-based civility.
It started with an act of internet vitriol aimed at Qasim Rashid, an attorney and Muslim immigrant from Pakistan, who is running for Congress in Virginia's 1st District. Rashid, a Democrat, is vying for a seat that has been held by a Republican since 1977.
According to Rashid, a conservative Virginia man sent him "deeply hurtful anti-Muslim tweets" which included a meme that falsely claimed the religion of Islam promoted violent acts like rapes and beheadings.
That man was Oz Dillon.
"We don't need you... in our nation. Let alone in any seat of office above street sweeper," Dillon wrote in the tweet.
But behind his hateful words, Dillon was experiencing difficulties of his own. He and his wife had fallen deep into medical debt and were struggling financially.
In a GoFundMe fundraiser, Dillon explained how bills from his wife's life-threatening pulmonary embolism had left them broke. His insurance had doubled in cost and covered less of their medical needs, Dillon said. Their house, which they worried they would have to sell, also needed updates to make it handicap accessible for his wife, he said in the post.
"With an income, after taxes of $3,126 a month, or around $38k a year, we are literally broke, by the 23rd of each month," Dillon said.
When Rashid learned this, instead of returning the hate, he donated to Dillon's GoFundMe.
"My faith instead teaches me to serve all humanity-- so Ive donated $55 to his GoFundMe to help him & his family cover crushing medical debt," Rashid wrote.
He encouraged his followers to also donate to the campaign.
As donations poured in, Dillon was moved by Rashid's response and sent him an apologetic message on GoFundMe:
"Mr Rashid, You humble me sir, with your graciousness, & surprisingly kind words. You cannot imagine how uplifting it is, to see gifts such as yours starting to come in! Given how I have misspoken about you in posts on FaceBook, I am truly shocked, that you have shared my wife & my flight with your supporters. I must now reassess my opinion about you, and your platform, come November. No offense intended, but it looks like our Friends & Family Prayers are not only being answered. But coming through like the champions they are. May God continue to bless you and yours in all things, always."
On his fundraising page, Dillon also posted an update expressing his newfound change in perspective.
"An amazing week of eye & heart opening enlightenment, that I used to always have before 9/11. A Christian Muslim, Qasim Rashid, who I had previously opposed politically just because of the word Muslim, has opened my eyes that there are GOOD people in all walks of life. He shared our plight with his followers, who in turn donated nearly $1,000 dollars to help Terri & I get rid of this crushing debt. I owe him, and everyone in fact, a deep debt of gratitude, and pray you are all rewarded tenfold, for your generosity."
As of March 10, the GoFundMe had raised more than $17,000.
On March 8, the two men reconciled outside the confines of social media by meeting in person.
"Today I met my new friend Oz," Rashid wrote on Twitter.
"I look forward to the beginning of a wonderful friendship," he said.