Last Thursday, LynnMarie Rink and her nine-year-old son James were shopping at an Apple Store in Nashville, when James, who has special needs, ran into a glass wall. No long-term harm was done to either the child or the glass, but all the customers in the store gasped at the noise and turned to look, and Rink was understandably shaken up and stressed out. That is, until Andrew Wall, an employee at the store, came over to where mother and son were sitting on the floor and went out of his way to help.
Rink was so grateful that she later took to Facebook to post a thank you to the employee and the store. Her letter, which has over 1 million page views and 20,000 shares, explains how important the iPad is as a learning tool to James, who was born with Down syndrome and also has autism.
Dear Apple Store, Green Hills,
I’m writing to let you know how great your employee (pictured in this photo) was to me and my son, James, yesterday when we came to the store to buy a new iPad.
When James was about three-years-old we bought him his first iPad. It turned out to be more than a device to watch videos. It became a way to help James communicate.
Because James was born with Down Syndrome, and at six-years-old was diagnosed with Autism, we use his iPad everyday as a learning tool. Sadly, even with a life-proof cover, after seven years of use, James’ first iPad was no longer working. We had replaced the screen several times and it just kept breaking. It was obviously time for a new one!
I had lunch with a dear friend, who noticed the ‘state’ of my iPhone 5. I told her that it was covered in snot, and limping along, not because of me, but because of James. (My phone became the replacement to his iPad.)
To make a long story a bit shorter, that friend happens to be on the board of a charitable organization, Fiona Rose Murphey Foundation Trail Ride, who graciously offered to provide James with a much needed new iPad.
On Thursday, James and I made our way to the Apple Store in Green Hills. While looking at the iPads James must have seen something that sparked his interest in the mall, and he took off running full speed out the door. The problem was he wasn’t at the door, but at the clear glass wall. He slammed into the wall full force which knocked him over. The entire store gasped as they heard the sound of James’ head hitting the glass and then the floor.
I ran to him and tried to comfort him. James has a very high tolerance for pain, so his tears and ‘fat lip’ were brief. Mine however were not. As I hugged him sitting on the floor your employee came over and sat down next to me. He asked if he was okay and if there was anything he could do. I think it was at this point that he realized James had special needs.
'I think we’re gonna be okay,' I said. 'But it looks like he’s gonna have quite a goose egg on his forehead.' Your employee asked, 'What can I do for you?' (I wanted to ask for a margarita or a donut but I was pretty sure they didn’t have any of those in that secret back room.) I said, 'Well, we actually came here today to buy an iPad which was donated to James, but if we’re going to proceed would you be willing to sell it to us and set it up… down here on the floor?'
And so he did. Your awesome employee sat with James on the floor of the store and set up the new iPad. There are no words to accurately describe how grateful I am that he took the time to ‘meet us right where we were.’ He didn’t have to sit down on the floor with us. He could have easily waited for us to stand. Could have easily waited for us to come back another day. But he hung out with us in the midst of our pain. He even got a fist bump from James, and I snapped this photo.
Life is a learning journey. And I walked away from this experience with the reminder to always meet people where they are at. It's so easy to be so focused on our own mission or plan (or sale) that we fail to see what people really need. I long to be better at this. I long to not be so self-absorbed that I never miss an opportunity to love exactly like someone needs in the moment.
Thank you to Apple Store, your employee, and the Fiona Rose Murphey Foundation Charitable Trust for being a part of our never-dull lives.
In the emotion of the day I can’t remember his name, but I’m hoping someone will see this and get this “Thank you” to him! (Until the snow clears and I can get there myself! Which in Nashville could be weeks! ha)
P.S. And a big thank you to Apple for making products that are changing the lives of special needs kids!"
Wall, who graduated from Belmont University with a degree in psychology, wrote to Rink: “I began working at Apple in hopes of having fulfilling moments like this. My hopes are to work within the realm of youth counseling. Thanks again for making my day!”