When Florida State University wide receiver Travis Rudolph visited Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Fla., with some of his teammates, he did more than just inspire kids to stay focused and prepare for college. He also made the day of Bo Paske, a sixth-grade boy with autism, who he noticed was sitting alone and asked to join for lunch. It was a simple, unsolicited gesture that brought the boy's mother to tears and showed the world the meaning of kindness.
"I asked if I could sit next to him, and he said 'Sure, why not?' " Rudolph said in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel. "I just felt like we had a great conversation. He started off and was so open. He told me his name was Bo and how much he loves Florida State, and he went from there."
Leah Paske took to Facebook with an emotional post about her son's struggles and the struggles of anyone who's ever found it hard to fit in.
"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."
"It was really easy to (talk) with him," Rudolph told The Sentinel. "He had a nice smile on his face. He was a really warm person."
Someone sent Paske a picture of Rudolph eating with her son.
Her post read: "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."
"It's just a blessing. I feel like God makes everything happen for a reason," Rudolph later said in an interview posted on FSU Football's Twitter. "I feel like one person can make a difference, and maybe I'm that difference."
You're absolutely right, Travis. And you absolutely made a difference.