At thirteen, Jimmy Wayne Barber was left all alone to fend for himself at a bus station hundreds of miles from home by his mother and his stepfather. They had spent seven months living in their car, fleeing from the law after his stepfather shot and paralyzed someone. Jimmy Wayne then spent the next three years being homeless until at sixteen Bea and Russell Costner took this young man in and turned around his world.
This is just a snapshot of Jimmy Wayne's awe-inspiring life told in his New York Times Best Selling memoir with Ken Abraham called Walk to Beautiful. He shares stories of growing up in trailer parks surrounded by sex and drugs, going weeks without a shower, and how his hunger was more painful than the physical and emotional abuse he endured.
What is beautiful is how Jimmy Wayne overcame the adversity and rose to stardom as a country singer with multiple Billboard hits. Even more beautiful is how Jimmy Wayne is using his fame as a platform to transform the foster care system by raising awareness of the implications of children aging out of the system.
Jimmy Wayne walked halfway across America from Nashville to Phoenix, 1700 miles in 7 months, finishing on a broken foot. He started with absolutely nothing except what was given to him to simulate what it is like to be a child in the foster care system with nothing to depend on except the kindness of others. Marmot, Merrell, Red Roof Inn, angels in costumes of strangers, and friends supported him with hiking gear, a support vehicle, food, shelter, and words of encouragement along the way.
Not all children are that fortunate. Many of these precious children jump from home to home and are eventually kicked out when the financial incentives for the foster families expire due to the child turning a certain age. Approximately 30,000 children age out of the system every year. Imagine being 18 and trying to make it on your own without a foundation to build from. Jimmy Wayne's program, Project Meet Me Halfway, continues to advocate for these beautiful children who are often overlooked and rarely heard. His voice is their voice.
Jimmy Wayne shares his beliefs that will help you find encouragement to take another step on your path and, if you are inspired to, help others on theirs too.
1) Express yourself. For years Jimmy Wayne was afraid of sharing his experiences for fear of judgment. Vocalizing your deepest fears helps with the healing process and may even help others with their healing by knowing they are not alone.
Jimmy Wayne is also a big advocate for journaling. He learned about journaling from his teacher, Ms. Friday, when he was just a teen and has continued his practice ever since. Start journaling today. Your writings may not turn into Billboard hits or a New York Times Best Selling book. They will be your expression of your life.
2) Your circumstances do not define you. It is not where you have been. It is where you are going. It is who you are at this moment. Make choices that align with who you are and who you want to be. Keep focused on your goals and take inspired action in the direction of your dreams.
3) You can do anything you put your mind to. If you really want something, if you make your mind up and put forth the effort, you can do it. Jimmy Wayne's life is proof.
4) Keep your word. A person is only as good as their word. Once trust is broken, it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to rebuild. This starts with keeping your word with yourself. Jimmy Wayne made a promise to himself to help children in the foster system once he could. He kept his word in a big way and our world is better because of it.
5) You must be present to win. Jimmy Wayne knew he needed to be in Nashville to be a star and did everything to get there. Where do you want to show up more in your life?
6) Surround yourself with good people. Life can be hard. It's important to surround yourself with people that share your values that can support you in when life challenges you.
7) Be somebody. Live your life. Follow your dreams. Why not?
8) Choose forgiveness. Jimmy Wayne has been able to forgive the people in his life who hurt him the most. This is not for their benefit. This is for his benefit. He lives in more love and peace because of it. Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there anything you need to forgive yourself for? Remember, we are all doing the best we possibly can.
9) Do something. Take action no matter how small you may think it is.It is about spreading love. As Mother Teresa says "It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving." Plus, what you consider a small action may mean the world to someone else. You may even find some benefits for yourself when helping others too.
Jimmy Wayne's journey is a beautiful reminder of the power of the human spirit for each. He shows us how to prevail on those days that feel challenging. Look within for strength on those days that you feel all alone. Help others--whatever that looks like for you. They will benefit and so will you. Be your beautiful.
To learn more about how you can help precious children in our foster care system go to Project Meet Me Halfway.