The Florida State player made an autistic student's day when he joined the boy for lunch in a middle-school cafeteria.
- Posted on Aug 31, 2016
When Florida State receiver Travis Rudolph visited a Florida middle school, he did more than encourage the students. He asked a boy who was eating alone if he could join him. When he did that he eased a mother’s worries and created a good news story that went viral.
Rudolph and his teammates were in the cafeteria at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida, on August 30, 2016, as students were having lunch. When he spotted one young boy sitting by himself, Rudolph joined him for a slice of pizza.
The student, Bo Paske, has autism and frequently lunches alone, but when Rudolph engaged with him, a snapshot was taken and shared with Bo's mom, Leah, who was deeply moved by Rudolph's actions.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
Ms. Paske shared the photo of Rudolph and Bo on her Facebook page, accompanied by an appreciative post:
Several times lately I have tried to remember my time in middle school, did I like all my teachers, do I even remember them? Did I have many friends? Did I sit with anyone at lunch? Just how mean were kids really? I remember one kid on the bus called me "Tammy Fay Baker" bc I started awkwardly wearing eye liner in the sixth grade, I remember being tough and calling him a silly name back, but when he couldn't see me anymore I cried. I do remember middle school being scary, and hard.
Now that I have a child starting middle school, I have feelings of anxiety for him, and they can be overwhelming if I let them. Sometimes I'm grateful for his autism. That may sound like a terrible thing to say, but in some ways I think, I hope, it shields him. He doesn't seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn't seem to notice that he doesn't get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn't seem to mind if he eats lunch alone.
It's one of my daily questions for him. Was there a time today you felt sad? Who did you eat lunch with today? Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it's nobody. Those are the days I feel sad for him, but he doesn't seem to mind. He is a super sweet child, who always has a smile and hug for everyone he meets. A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption "Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son" I replied "who is that?" He said "FSU football player", then I had tears streaming down my face.
Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my sons school today. I'm not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I'm happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn't have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes. Travis Rudolph thank you so much, you made this momma exceedingly happy, and have made us fans for life!
Ms. Paske's loving concern for and support of her son is moving, and the thoughtful gesture on Rudolph’s part of joining Bo for a bite and some conversation is a good reminder that our choices can make a difference for others.
Did you enjoy this story? Subscribe to Guideposts magazine.