Here’s a story from WGN Chicago that I want to comment about.
While visiting Montford Middle School with teammates on Tuesday, Florida State University wide receiver Travis Rudolph spotted a boy sitting by himself at lunch, and asked if he could sit next to him according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Later in the day, Bo Paske’s mom posted a photo to Facebook that is capturing hearts.
“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,” she wrote.
“He started off and was so open,” Rudolph told the newspaper. “He told me his name was Bo, and how much he loves Florida State, and he went from there.”
Rudolph is the Seminoles’ leading returning receiver, and in addition to earning the praise of his coaches, gained a mother’s love, who says they’re now FSU fans for life.
“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,” the mom stated in her post.
Here’s some of what the mother of the boy said in her post:
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!
I am friends with a number of high achieving, dedicated Christians. A lot of them are very focused on school and work, and it doesn’t help that I bully them to get good grades and make money. But I worry sometimes about whether, when they read their Bibles, they are really getting the message of taking care of their neighbors. I want them to have the same heart as the football player did in the story, to sit down and spend time with those who are needy or awkward or unpopular.
I remember growing up very poor, and being a different color than all the well-off white students in the school. I would often go to school with messy hair and torn or faded clothes, because we just didn’t have the money to buy me expensive polo shirts like some of the other kids wore. My parents were immigrants. I didn’t get invited to many birthday parties, either. I know what it feels like to sit alone at a table because of things that I can’t control being uncomfortable for others.
The Bible actually has something to say about it.
25 And a [a]lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? [b]How does it read to you?”
27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and [c]beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,
34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
35 On the next day he took out two [d]denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’
36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”
37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do [e]the same.”
I will say that today it can be difficult to reach out to the other, especially since so many on the secular left make it a condition of talking to them that you agree with them, that you hide your faith and convictions, that you celebrate everything that they are doing even if it is sinful and destructive. They are so intolerant that they even try to get you fired if you disagree with them on moral issues. Still, there are some non-leftist people who are not popular and who will let you be who you are safely. The man who was beat up was a victim of forces outside of his control, he was being immoral and demanding that everyone celebrate his immorality. He was safe to help.
As long as I am free to be who I am as a Christian, what is it the harm of sitting with unpopular people? After all, as long as I’m an open Christian, I’m probably not going to be accepted by the popular crowd anyway. Sin is popular, today. Drinking and hooking up and sexual immorality are popular. I think we ought to be looking for opportunities to be open and welcoming to those who do not force us to hide our faith and deny our moral convictions. For those people who are “safe”, we shouldn’t resent their demands. Another person’s needs shouldn’t be a deterrent to reaching out to them. Their hostility to our faith and moral convictions might be, if we judge them to be dangerous.
And I think this openness to opportunity is even more important, if they are asking for advice on spiritual things. Every person was made to know God, and when a person comes to you and asks about God, that makes them the most important person in the world. You have to drop everything and handle that opportunity.