Jeff Foxworthy: a Heart for the Underdog

Jeff Foxworthy’s genuine, it’s-not-about-me humility merits some attention. His others-centeredness is as stunning as it is refreshing in the often ego-driven world of celebrity.

Even staggering success in his comedy career — commanding some of the highest fees in the business and picking up kudos along the way such as Forbes’ Top 100 Powerful Celebrities — does nothing to blur his vision of what really matters.

“You can’t find a truly happy person who’s self-focused,” he says from his Atlanta home, just returning from a program he helps run at the city’s homeless shelter. “These guys at the shelter get [the gospel] better than most church people I’ve ever met. They’ve got no Plan B.”

A fervent supporter of Compassion International and other hands-on programs that help the poor, sick, and downtrodden, Jeff says simply, “I have a heart for the underdog.”

He first learned about Compassion seven years ago on a church trip to the Kibera slum in Kenya. What he saw was jolting.  “I had no idea poverty like that existed anywhere in the world…the women, the children, the sewage in the streets, the vultures, the smell so awful.”

“When you make them real people, that’s when you’ve got to respond somehow.”

The experience was life-changing for Jeff and his oldest daughter Jordan, 14 at the time, his companion on the trip. She was transformed from a shy girl who never wanted to leave the house to a passionate advocate who has traveled around the United States promoting Compassion’s efforts to reduce malaria rates among sponsored children.

The Foxworthy family (which also includes Gregg, Jeff’s wife of 27 years, and younger daughter Jules) has since remained actively involved, even working to build a 15-child orphanage five years ago in Kenya.

“You see kids over there on their own. They’re 10 years old,” says Jeff. “They get raped, they get used.” Jeff and Gregg decided to forgo presents one Christmas and build the orphanage instead.  When they went to visit the new facility a year later, the experience was overwhelming.

“My wife slowly walked through it, went outside, sat down in a field, and sobbed.”

While Jeff’s desire to love others as Jesus did is based in faith that took hold when he was only 7, his empathy for the suffering is grounded in childhood experiences that left him feeling unwanted and looked down upon.

Jeff grew up outside of Atlanta with two younger siblings. His dad left the family when Jeff was 9, marrying five more times before his death.

“When a parent leaves,” Jeff says, “you always have the feeling something was more important than you.”

After his parents’ divorce, Jeff watched his mother struggle to provide the basics from her wages as a keypunch operator. He still feels the sting of being mocked by other kids for his worn baseball uniform.

“I thought, ‘You don’t know me. You’re just looking at my shirt.’”

Such are the scars that keep this megastar humble and clearheaded about what matters most in life.  “Whatever I’ve got, it’s because God gave me the ability to be funny. It’s not mine.”

Thanks to Compassion International for letting All Pro Dad reprint portions of their full article found at Compassion International.  For more on sponsoring a poverty-stricken child through Compassion International, please visit here


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