August 26, 2004
Sylvester-- A man that many people would think has not one, but two handicaps, gets two big breaks-- a career break in an odd place. In the dirty and greasy world of auto mechanics, a clean example of inspiration.
"We've been working together off and on for about two-and-a-half years," says Jamie Beckwith of Beckwith Motorsports, about a young man who works with him.
Shannon Patterson can't hear or speak, but he can repair cars, a relationship that started long ago. "I've probably known his family for 16 or 17 years," says Jamie, who also knew of Shannon's love of cars.
Jamie knew Shannon couldn't speak or hear since birth, 25 years ago, but he looked beyond the handicaps. "He has the same interests I have," says Jamie, who saw potential in Shannon that people had overlooked. "He's willing to learn and I'm willing to teach him."
But first they had to develop their own sign language to communicate. "He understands everything I tell him. I can understand everything he says," says Jamie.
They disassembled a transmission, with Jamie showing Shannon how to inspect each part as it was removed. Shannon eagerly used an air wrench to release greasy bolts to gain access to other parts. He was eager to learn something new.
Jamie started noticing an interesting change. Shannon's productivity was higher than most. "He pays more attention," says Jamie, because the noisy environment mechanics work in don't bother Shannon. He doesn't hear the horns blowing or the conversations of people that could distract him.
"He does 50 to 55% of the work that gets done here," says Jamie.
Occasionally, Shannon needs to borrow Jamie's ear. "If he's not sure, he'll ask me to listen for him," says Jamie. Shannon can touch a car engine and tell if it runs correctly or not.
But why would a busy mechanic take the unusual chance of teaching a skill to a person with not one, but two handicaps? "Somebody's got to give him a chance," says Jamie.
Shannon has always wanted to work on cars, and he got his lucky break because the owner of the shop got a lucky break. "I was 15 or 16 years old, I was married and had a kid," remembers Jamie. It seemed impossible for him to get a job. No one wanted to hire a teenage father, his handicap, of sorts. "Yes, sir," says Jamie.
But a friend gave Jamie a break when no one else would. "Someone gave me a chance," says Jamie.
A chance to prove himself, much like what he does for Shannon, proving good deeds always find their way back home.
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