That up there is star Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph eating lunch with a middle school-aged kid. That’s a nice thing for an athlete to do, and it shows a good commitment to community service, but it also happens all over the country with some frequency. The difference here is that the boy, Bo Paske, is autistic and often is ostracized by his peers. So, he eats alone. To the boy’s mother, Leah, that small gesture carries huge significance.
“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.
“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!”
Any parent of a special needs child takes note of the people in their life who treat such a child with respect or kindness, and can use it as a light to carry them through the darker days. For an autistic boy to make a connection with anyone, let alone an athlete who must have been a big deal at the school, is substantial moment and one that can tangibly improve his life. Travis’ reaction to the story going viral just underscores how nice he is:
Hopefully we’ll have more stories about the friendship of Bo and Travis down the line, but for now, it’s just nice to be reminded that some athletes use their privileged and exalted status to do real good.
(H/t CBS Sports)