Alone NO MORE BY SUSAN DAVIS GRYDER IMAGES OF A YOUNGSTER SITTING ALONE IN A BUSY SCHOOL CAFETERIA are virtually guaranteed to induce tears, winces and lumps in the throat, whether viewed in person, as part of a movie or television series or shared via social media meme. Social isolation, and the terror of sitting alone at lunchtime, is a painful issue that many of us recognize. Even the most relaxed and social among us have probably felt the occasional twinge of anxiety upon walking into a room full of people who all seem to know each other. The lunchroom can be a prime place for exclusionary behavior—and kids who dine alone are on full display, often perpetuating their disconnection. The extent to which the problem of social isolation at lunch-time resonates so deeply with so many can be found in the ex-ample of a 2016 photo that went viral on social media. The image was of Travis Rudolph, a Florida State University football player visiting his old middle school in Tallahassee. When he noticed an 11-year-old boy sitting alone in the cafeteria, he sat down and started a conversation with the youngster. Someone snapped a photo and sent it to the boy’s mother. Moved and grateful, the mom posted it to Facebook, noting: “This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone….” The image has been viewed millions of times through shares, tweets and coverage by traditional media outlets. (Google “FSU player sits with…” and you’ll ﬁnd multiple references.) This simple act of kindness continues to move viewers, because, sadly, such kindnesses seem rare today. 38 | SN | March 2018 Why and how you can help end social isolation in the school cafeteria.