Often people think that affecting change in the world requires grand gestures. But a photo that went viral on the Internet recently reminded me of how simple acts of kindness can also spark change.
In the photo, Florida State University football player Travis Rudolph eats lunch with 6th-grader Bo Paske during a visit to Montford Middle School in Tallahassee. According to Mr. Rudolph, he noticed Bo sitting alone, asked if he could join him, and the two shared a nice conversation. What Mr. Rudolph didn’t know at the time was that Bo is autistic and more times than not eats lunch alone.
When Bo’s mother, Leah Paske, received the photo from a friend, she immediately posted it on to Facebook and expressed her gratitude: “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 photo got lots of attention, with Mr. Rudolph, Bo and his mom appearing on news shows and making the papers. One small gesture made a marginalized kid feel less like an outcast, lifted his mother’s spirits and, hopefully, made his classmates and school administrators reevaluate the way they treat him. Simple acts of kindness can go a long way in helping others feel worthy and loved, as this issue of response points out.
Starting with “A Fresh Wind Blowing,” Janet Wolf recounts Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan women from the Gospel of John. Here was a woman on the margins of society, an outcast among her own people. According to the mores of the day, Jesus should not have even spoken to her, and she certainly should not have been talking to him. But his simple act of kindness—engaging someone deemed unworthy and an outsider—transformed her to joyously go forth and spread the Gospel. What can you say to someone to bring them closer to God?
Rural Mission in Johns Island, South Carolina, works hard to offer shelter, food and family services to rural coastal residents and runs a Head Start program for migrant children. Recently, a group of United Methodist Women from across the Southeast lent them support by cleaning and painting and sprucing up its grounds. Read about it in “Day of Mission in South Carolina,” and give some thought to how you can assist a group or organization that may be understaffed or overtaxed.
When poor women from south of our borders flee violent circumstances in their home countries to seek asylum, sometimes with children in tow, they can meet with harsh treatment from the U.S. immigration system. “Welcoming Refugees in San Antonio” reports on the horrendous journeys that Central American woman undertake for safety and opportunity and the ways in which area United Methodist Women provide them with comfort and hope.
I’m new in my position as managing editor for response, but I’ve worked with this publication previously and have always been inspired by members’ many acts of service and advocacy for women, children and youth throughout the world. I’m thrilled to be a part of your team and mission to put faith, hope and love in action.
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