Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Star Football Player Ate Lunch With Boy with Autism, Warms Mother’s Heart

Sometimes one small, simple, even silent act of kindness can make all the difference in the world. For the mother of a middle-schooler in Florida, her life was changed when Travis Rudolph, a wide receive on Florida State’s football team sat down and ate pizza next to her son. And then the moment gave the Internet  all the feels.

Leah Paske shared in Facebook post that her son Bo, who has autism, often eats lunch alone, and is not invited to birthday parties.

“Sometimes I am grateful for his autism,” Paske wrote expressing her grief and anxiety knowing her child is eating alone but finding a small comfort in the fact that “he doesn’t seem to notice.”

People with autism, or Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have trouble learning, communicating, and interacting. ASD affects 1 in 68 children in the U.S. and tens of millions of children globally. Sadly, and too often, autistic children can struggle in school because the resources aren't in place to create an accommodating learning environment. This was sometimes the case for Paske’s son.

Read More: Why Canadian MP Mike Lake Is Advocating For Autism Awareness

Every day Paske asks her son if he ate lunch with anyone that day, usually his answer is no. Sometimes he ate his home-packed lunch with one other student.

So when Paske asked her son the usual question, expecting the heartbreaking yet routine answer “no” she was shocked to hear that he ate lunch with none other than one of Florida State’s most popular football players —  Travis Rudolph.

Rudolph saw Paske’s son eating alone and asked if he could have a seat with him, then the two shared a conversation over lunch and said he would “hang out with him any day.”

Rudolph didn’t realize at the time just how much his small act of kindness would mean. Now a viral act of solidarity against bullying, creating further awareness around autism, his act warmed the hearts of mothers, children and people everywhere.

“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,” said Paske.

In the digital age especially, acts of solidarity and kindness can grow in scope, touching and bringing comfort to more people around the world than expected.

Read More: Police Cook Meal for Sobbing, Lonely Couple in Italy, Restore Faith in Humanity

Thank you to Travis for reminding us that sometimes an act of kindness can be as easy as sitting down and eating a slice of pizza.