Jimmy Wayne is more than a country singer. He’s a man who understands what it’s like to be alone, desperate, vulnerable, hurt, and homeless. Jimmy Wayne, with help from award-winning author Ken Abraham, share this autobiographical account of growing up. With the hope that he’ll inspire others, he writes down painful memories, horrific events, and heart-wrenching experiences that all led him to where he is today.
The book itself is very eye-opening. It gives the reader a glimpse into what it’s like growing up with unstable parents, extremely poor, and neglected. It also shares from his perspective what it’s like to be placed in the foster care system, hoping for better . . . only to continually be disappointed. I found myself either appalled or heartsick as I read about his life.
Jimmy made his way through all his troubles and landed himself on higher ground. Who knew fame was in his future when, as a kid, he was trying to figure out what he’d eat from meal to meal, just trying to stay alive. As a country singer, he’s been able to put some of his feelings in his lyrics, and yet, he wanted to do more. With humble heart, Jimmy Wayne put the spotlight on foster kids . . . the ones who age out of the system and have nowhere to go. In 2010, Jimmy put his fame to charitable use and launched his Meet Me Halfway Campaign, walking from Nashville to Phoenix. Part of his book chronicles the difficult experience of walking across the country.
So many details in the book create his story, but the real story for me was when he meets Russell and Bea Costner. This was the turning point in a young, lost sixteen-year-old’s life. Russell and Bea Costner were 75 years old when Jimmy started mowing their lawn to earn some cash in order to eat. The last thing they were looking to do was take in a homeless teenager. But the opportunity presented itself, and they acted. It wasn’t a handout to help some kid. It was an act of pure love. They saw a need and took care of it.
With all their love, they not only gave him clean clothes and a bed in a warm room with food to eat each day, they embraced him as a member of their family. As such, he had to follow certain rules . . . like cut his hair, immediately. They supported him through schooling. They took him to church. They had high expectations for Jimmy and believed in him. And in return, Jimmy began to believe in himself again. He respected and loved Bea and Russell. He recalls seeing Bea smile and thinking she was the most beautiful woman.
Love has the capacity to transcend all despair, and that happened for Jimmy. Bea and Russell changed his life, completely changing his trajectory. I sometimes wonder if the capacity within each of us to do the same for others. Maybe fostering isn’t in your plan, but it wasn’t in Bea and Russell’s plan either. They didn’t hire Jimmy to mow their lawn with the intention of embracing him as their son. And yet, they did. Something within them said it was the right thing to do. It makes me think. Maybe you can’t be a foster parent for whatever reason, but maybe volunteering as a Big Brother or Big Sister could be something you can do. What influence could you make? What amount of love and sincere concern can change someone’s life? As far as I know, Russell and Bea didn’t officially adopt Jimmy, they just loved him completely. And what if you could do that for someone else?
I’m a better person for having read this book. As long as more and more people are willing to share their stories, others will be inspired to do good. And that gives me hope.
To read this inspiring true story, purchase Walk to Beautiful.