Sometimes, I’m really surprised by people… in a good way. Sometimes, in circumstances that could go badly wrong, you see the best of people in unexpected ways. Sometimes, angels appear where and when you least expect them to…
A few days ago I needed to pay a cheque (yes, they do still exist!) into the ATM outside of the Winton (Bournemouth) branch of Santander, but needed to take my son, James, who has autism and associated learning difficulties (including being non-verbal) with me as there was no-one else at home to care for him at the time. James enjoyed the trip out, we paid the cheque in, and as I turned to guide James back to our car (parked just down the road), he neatly side-stepped me and bolted through the automatic doors into the bank!
He raced past everyone, including a couple of initially startled staff, and straight to the small customer meeting room at the back of the branch (thankfully, no-one was in there arranging a loan!) He sat down and stubbornly refused to budge… The Santander team were outstanding; they asked if everything was OK (which was a work in progress at the time!) and then asked how they could help… As I was thinking fast to work out what James was up to, at no point did they express anything other than care and thoughtfulness…
Then “Eureka!” I suddenly realised that we had been to the branch a few months back to arrange an additional account, and had brought James along with us. He had sat in that very chair in that same customer meeting room during our meeting… At the end of that meeting, Lisa (who we’d met with) had given James a little red Santander torch, something he’d absolutely loved. It became clear what was going on… James was hoping for another torch! I broke the news to the now gathered staff…
The Santander team were amazing; they turned the place upside down looking for another red torch, and eventually, after tearing the place apart, found one at the back of a cupboard… several of them were helping by this stage!
Once James had been presented with his torch, which he gratefully accepted, he was then happy for us to leave and go back to the car… with me calling out thanks to the team over my shoulder as I hurried out of the branch behind him! I’m so grateful to the Santander team for their care and compassion, they really did go the extra mile…
Through their wonderful help, what could have been a very difficult experience became a much more positive one… In a time that has seen such bad press for Pepsi, United Airlines, Easy Jet etc, it’s good to have a great customer service story to tell!
Reflecting on this story, Jesus’ words as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel came to mind:
“Also, people do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand. Then it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:15 NIrV
James loved his torch, his little light… he wanted it to shine! Through his visit to Santander, the staff there were able to shine too… They showed compassion, care and thoughtfulness, never showing any negative emotions as their day was disrupted… It challenged me to think about how children and young people with additional needs, and their families, are sometimes made to feel in church. If a bank can get this so right, surely the church can?
James is my ‘little light’ too, inspiring much of the work I do… Through his stories, our experiences with him, the things he’s taught us, many others have been inspired to make a difference for the children and young people that they know or work with… James’ little light shines around the world, illuminating the way for many… God is using James in amazing ways… his little light is shining brighter and brighter every day!
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…”
20th April 2017
Image rights: Santander