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“It is difficulties that show what men are.” — Epictetus

Shane Abbott came into the world with the deck stacked against him.

Doctors repeatedly warned his pregnant mother that her child was unlikely to survive to term. But he did. Shane was born with cerebral palsy, which made use of his left arm and leg difficult. He developed a seizure disorder and other medical issues, including hydrocephalus, which required having a shunt inserted in his head when he was just a few weeks old.

Shane did not walk until he was 4, and he needed physical therapy until he was 16. His disabilities affected his schoolwork. But he was determined to make his own way in the world. He needed three tries to pass the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program exam, but at last he succeeded and earned a standard diploma.

“That was very important to me, because it meant I could do things like everyone else,” he recalls. “It meant that no matter what disability I had — no matter what I had to overcome, I could do it.”

After school, Shane went to work at a large discount store in Cookeville. He expressed an interest in working as a cashier but was told by a manager that the job would probably be too difficult for him.

“I asked him if he was willing to give me a chance. He did, and from then on I worked as a cashier,” Shane recalls.

Shane worked at large retail stores for more than a decade. But the single father of two lost his job in 2009. Soon after, he fell and broke his hip, requiring eight months of rehabilitation. He would not work again for nine years.

“I had been working for so long, I decided to take a break. But it was rough getting back into the workforce — I didn’t expect it to take so long,” he says.

Shane says his mom, Cindy Spellings, who worked three jobs to put him and his three brothers through school,

provided the support and encouragement he needed to get back on his feet, physically and emotionally. In the summer of 2017, he began looking for a job in earnest.

“I began to want more out of life,” he recalls.

He applied for a position at the local Goodwill store, where he frequently shopped, and a few days later store manager Cindy Magourik left a message on his cell phone: “If you are still interested in a job, give me a call.”

Shane retains the voicemail on his phone as a keepsake.

“It’s the call that changed my life,” he explains.

At first, Shane processed donations at the store, but his supervisor quickly saw potential in his customer service skills and moved him to the cash register. Since that time, his outgoing personality and sincere desire to make every customer feel happy and appreciated have earned him numerous fans, assistant manager Tommie Murphy said.

“When he’s not there, customers miss him and ask about him,” she said. “Shane does an outstanding job.”

Shane says the job has helped him regain his confidence, and his family is proud of his progress.

“Goodwill has given me more independence. I’m more motivated, and it has made me more joyful,” he says. “It’s just done a lot of things for me.”

Shane’s mother says thanks to his job, her son is once again beating the odds,

“Goodwill has improved his self-esteem and overall outlook,” she adds, “and I thank God for that.”


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— By Chris Fletcher
Prior to joining Goodwill as its PR & Communications Manager in 2014, Fletcher was a professional journalist for
more than 25 years working at media outlets in three states, including the Associated Press.