I began this book without ever having heard of the name Jimmy Wayne; at the tail end of my foster parent journey, but by the end I was convinced that even though I knew I wouldn't continue as a foster mom, I need to continue helping kids in some capacity. I thank Jimmy Wayne for helping me come to that conclusion.
I just have to say by the end of it, I became a Jimmy Wayne fan, and I'd never heard a single song. We have a lot in common, and no, I'm not the tiniest bit musical, but reading about his growing up years was all too familiar to me and it was a bit of a dark day as I read through. It just took me back to incidents I had wanted forgotten. We could have grown up in the same neighborhoods, it was that familiar.
He was not just a survivor but a "thriver". We have Jesus in common, and a great passion for the fatherless and foster kids. I now consider myself a fan of his music, after having taken the time to find the songs on iTunes that he wrote about it in the book. I'm not much for country music either, but hey, they are really great songs!
This charming and boyish guy has a big heart. He does a lot to raise funds and awareness and even helps to change laws, for foster kids. I'm so impressed with him as a person. Quite extraordinary, and it was a breath of fresh air to find another soul in this world doing good things for other people. The world could use more.
His song Paper Angels, and the story behind it, have inspired a sweet little movie. See the trailer here
Having been one of those kids who received gifts from a similar program at Christmas, I can attest to the difference kindness makes. Even from a stranger. I have an old picture of my little sister and me, wearing coats and holding dolls that a complete stranger bought us, next to a Christmas tree that other strangers brought to our home and decorated for us. I remember they also brought boxes of food, and to kids who sometimes had bare cupboards, that's exciting! So, this Christmas when you have an opportunity to grab a little paper angel off a Christmas tree with a child or family's name on it, grab it! I'll bet you will be blessed to be a blessing to someone who could just about use a little kindness.
I hadn't heard of Jimmy's walk halfway across America called Meet Me Halfway probably because it got over shadowed by the earthquake in Haiti, about the same time. Check out the link, I think you will be impressed. He walked to bring awareness mainly to the foster kids who "age out" of the system at 18 and have nowhere to go.
(Of course most of them end up homeless and then jail, on a street corner prostituting- unwillingly, dealing drugs, or dead. Who could expect differently of a kid with NOBODY? No one to call for help, no one to send them a birthday card, or set a seat at their table at Thanksgiving for them...nobody to care if they live or die. This has been a soapbox of mine, having a cousin who aged out. My sister and I were also in foster care for a while, and other of my relatives. This really hits close to home for me. Most people never think about these kids, but Jimmy Wayne, having been one of them, rescued by a couple full of Jesus and His love, remembers.)
He finished the last leg of his race on a broken foot, no less.
Walk To Beautiful by Jimmy Wayne with Ken Abraham was hard to put down, because of personal reasons but also because it was fascinating. His past was memorialized quite well in a journal he kept since 6th grade as well as receipts, tickets, and other things, so at times the memories seem meticulous in detail. He kept them in ziplock bags to preserve them from the weather and constant moving. It's an honest, sometimes brutally so, memoir written by a man honest with his feelings and who has been able to graciously forgive and just tell his story. His childhood was traumatic to say the very least. His mentally ill mother abused not only substances but her children as well. The word neglect an understatement. The various men she brought into their lives were broken people who in turn damaged and broke her children. Terrible beatings, abandonments, watching people murdered, religious tones in his mentally ill mother at times confusing him about God, his sister married off to an abuser at age 14...being shot at, laughed at, scorned...wearing the same dirty clothes day after day, he grew up having never been valued as a human being until he met Bea and Russell Costner. (Lord, let there be more like them!)
It's a story of betrayal and violence and lots of dramatic moments but also hope and love and selfless kindness. Jimmy's story proves that love really does rescue. He says of Bea Costner, who took him in as a teenager, "She changed every cell of my body." Man, I want to be a Bea! When Bea and her husband Russell took Jimmy Wayne Barber into their home, he was homeless, dirty, and smelled like it. After her husband died, Bea continued to love and care for Jimmy. They were close even after he became an adult and began his career in music. He used to pick Bea up so she could attend his performances; she sat at his concerts in the front row, with the screaming girls and read her Bible! Precious visual.
I loved this story. I devoured it, even though it did take me back to some of my own dark days as I read the first half. His life now makes me remember that our pasts cannot make victims of us unless we allow it, but instead we can turn it around and let Jesus do something marvelous and redeem the pain. We can, by the grace of God, see others and help them out of their pits.
Jimmy is generous in sharing personal details. You won't be disappointed with this book. It delivers.
The mother in me wanted to rescue him as I read through the pages of his childhood. The child in me related too well. But the betrayed and rejected can become like Bea-and like Jesus for someone.
I'm blessed to have read Walk To Beautiful. I received a copy by the publisher for free in order to review it.
About Jimmy Wayne (from his website):
See Jimmy Wayne's website
See it on Amazon and even listen to a sample of the audio book.
Buy it on CBD