Monday, January 25, 2016

Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid who Found the Way by Jimmy Wayne with Ken Abraham

Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the WaySuccessful country song writer and solo artist Jimmy Wayne hit his stride in Nashville in the early 2000's but after returning home following a 2009 tour where he opened for Brad Paisley, Wayne decided he needed to follow through with a self-made promise that his life would honor the elderly couple who gave him stability and unconditional love when no one else would.  On New Year's Day 2010 Jimmy Wayne visited Monroe Harding foster care home in Nashville and then left there to walk half way across America to Phoenix to raise awareness of the plight of teenagers in the foster system.

Jimmy Wayne considers his walk, which lasted until August 2010, a success even those it cost him his songwriting and recording contract and ended with a broken foot due to stress fractures, a success.
As he shared his own story of life in the foster system, he shared that teenagers who "age out of the system" often transition directly into homelessness, crime, and failure.  Too often they fail to finish school, secure stable jobs, and almost never pursue post-secondary education.  Shortly after his walk, California passed legislation that allows foster care until age 21, and other states have followed suit.
Since Wayne's walk, the musician has turned writer and motivational speaker.  His book WALK TO BEAUTIFUL tells a frank and often dark story of a young boy (and his sister) who are neglected and abused by an irresponsible and troubled mother.  Alcohol, violence, hunger, and fear abound.  As his mother moves from one man to another, the family moves from one dive to another.  Frequently in jail and even in prison, the mother shoves the children off on her father, also unemployed and abusive, or with friends.  By the time James Wayne is 13, his sister who is only one year older has been married off to an older man, and James, his mother, and her current husband are on the run following a domestic dispute at their house.  After weeks on the run, many spent in homeless shelters, the boy's mother abandons him at a bus stop, telling him to return to North Carolina and his sister.

By the time Jimmy is 15, he is not attending school regularly, and has been in so many different living arrangements that I could not keep them straight.  Basically homeless for the summer, he happens upon a house with a workshop on the property.  An older couple are busy there making decorative butter churns.  When Jimmy asks if he can mow their lawn, Bea, the wife, says yes, and that simple yes changes the boy's life.  He works for them for the entire summer and near the end of August, Bea asks him where he is living.  She then offers him a room in their house, and Jimmy finally finds a family that does not desert him.  In fact, he stays there through the rest of high school, technical college, and into his first days of employment.  Bea becomes his biggest cheerleader, attending his concerts after he begins playing and singing music. 

Jimmy Wayne's own life shows that what he proposes is a great idea.  The teenage boy that he was at age 15 and 16 was still so messed up and angry that had he been placed in a foster home and then "aged" out at 18, he would have ended up on the streets again.  Because he missed so much school, he had been held back in 6th grade; without adult encouragement and structure, he probably would not have stayed in high school.  Certainly he never would have pursued the steps to advanced education. The Costners (and some great guidance counselors) provided the stability and encouragement.  Little by little, the boy's anger diminished and he was able to be successful at school, make friends, and build a future.  Bea and Russell also saw that Jimmy went to church.  And here is a strange twist to the story.  As messed up as Jimmy's mother was, when she was sober, she went to church and expected the kids to go.  She could not keep her own life straight, but her church going planted a seed in Jimmy.  Throughout his childhood he was often angry at God, but when
Russell said he needed to go to church, Jimmy did not refuse.  And after Russell died, Bea kept providing a home for Jimmy and his life today shows the power of love. I received a copy of this title from BookLook for my honest review.  

Check this website to learn more about Jimmy Wayne, his music, and his current plans.  Also scout around Youtube to hear his music.  Jimmy Wayne wrote the Christmas novel PAPER ANGELS which has been made into a movie.  Even though Christmas is over, I plan on watching that movie as soon as I can get the dvd from a nearby library.  I was given a copy of this book for review purposes; all opinions are mine.


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