When I met with Paul, he mentioned a men’s group that he belonged to. As this project seems to attract more women as participants, I jumped on the opportunity and asked Paul if there was anyone in that group that he would be willing to recommend. He said he already had a name in mind and then, a few days later, he passed along Josh’s information. Josh immediately accepted the invitation and invited me to join he and his family for dinner before even having met me. The timing for dinner didn’t line up, but Josh’s hospitality proved to remain rich throughout our conversation. Quite a lot of chatting, or maybe connecting is the better word, tends to happens before and after the official interview and I haven’t quite figured out a way to present that aspect to the world, but maybe that’s part of the future of this project. I can’t quite put a name to what happens when two strangers meet and immediately decide to be real and raw and honest with each other, but, whatever it is, it happened at Josh’s kitchen table. It felt very warm and restorative - the conversational equivalent to a homemade bowl of soup when you’re ill.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
I'm Joshua Alan Hayden - Josh Hayden, for my friends. Describing myself, I was raised in Pasco, Washington, on a farm - on an apple orchard - by my parents, Denny and Kathy. And my dad's an apple orchardist; my mom is an educator. So, I loved my childhood. I had an amazing childhood, I feel, because I had all the space up on the farm. I had seasons all the time. I got to be outside and experience change in nature all the time. Lots of freedom. Built lots of forts; things like that. We had a very strong church community in the farm area where I grew up, so I felt like that was a big part of my identity. As a youth, especially, I got to go to church and had many more aunts and uncles, it felt like. So, I look back and I think I had an amazing childhood. So I'm living a lot of my life trying to recreate a utopian vision of what that was in some way for my children and for myself, I guess - for my life to be happy, to spread happiness. I've been given many gifts and I'm trying to find the process of giving some of those gifts back.
I'm a teacher. I've worked in Bend for about 11 years now. That is good and challenging work. Every day is a new adventure. And the kids are amazing. And the kids are challenging (laughs). And I'm married. I'm a family man. So, I've got Emma and Gina are my daughters and Tanya's my wife and we've lived in Bend for about 16 years.
What matters to you?
So, it matters to me - maybe that's part of a Jesuit and Catholic education from the youth - is I feel like it's important to give back in some way. Again, I feel like an obligation. I feel like I'm an able-bodied person, able-minded, so I feel like for me to be who I am I need to be thankful for the gifts I was given. And the way that I can do that is to try to do things for others. And I don't know how successfully I do it all the time. I mean, sometimes I definitely get in my own way. So, service matters a lot. I feel like doing work that I care about matters a lot. I have an engineering degree. I got my bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and I did that for a few years at different places in the area. And decided that wasn't quite satisfying a need yet, so I shifted careers pretty completely and got into education 'cause I was finding I liked working with people. I spent some time working at a church for a few years and, between then, doing some ministry work. Yeah, I just really felt more of a affinity to that and to more community building. I know I get in my own way a lot times in the community building so that's part of my continuing work - is (laughs) how am I encouraging people to come together and not causing people to be apart because of my big ideas or whatever kind of things. So, I guess that matters to me, too. Besides service, community does matter a lot to me. And family. Family matters a lot. All of Tanya's family are very close in this area. My family we spend a lot of time with, as well. Part of our family story is we have an extended family in many ways. We have some adopted part of our families and we have our biological families as well. All those things matter.
What do we mean to each other?
I think we can mean a lot to each other. What I'm trying to work on with myself more lately is how am I more careful to each person? I mean that in terms of how am I actually getting out of my own head and trying to care about the needs of somebody else a little bit more? It does start with myself, but I spend a lot of time there, I think. But with my family - with Tanya and the girls - how do we take things a little more... not everything having to be scheduled, driven, and serious and everything, but how do we enjoy life a little bit more? How can we spread that out? How can we make our sphere a little bit bigger than that? My language within my different community areas kind of changes, but I think it's the same idea of love. So, caring for each other in terms of... I have a men's group that I've met up with for all the time I've been in Bend - 16 years - we meet at the D&D or other places around town 6:30 on Wednesday mornings and our term for us getting together is brothers, right? So, that's our term for love for each other. So that just means we listen to each other and we meet up with each other and we're regular about it. And when things go wrong, we try to be there. Sometimes we call it the brothership (laughs). But then in our church sphere, I guess we'd call beloved or loved - that's how we can be careful with one another is realizing the dignity of each person and being careful for them. In my school, when I work with my students, I don't use those terms. I use marvel. I use you're a marvel. Try to teach the kids all year long that they are marvels and have them repeat that and try to believe it because I think there's so many opposing messages that come at us. And then, with our family, the word is love and family.
And I think all those things just have that idea of being careful and loving to each other. So, I think that's what matters the most. I mean, I guess, probably my selfish desire with that is that I want to be loved and I want to feel loved. But I also feel good when I am caring and loving towards other people, too. I feel like a better version of me. If I'm feeling selfish, absorbed, anxious, depressed - some of those things happen with me - then I feel like my heart's withered and this dried up little prune (laughs). And, at times, I can get the flow of water and other things through and I feel like my heart gets juicy and I can spread that care out a little bit more effectively to other people. And I feel in a community we can hold a space for each other to have all those times. My wife is there for me when I'm pretty withered feeling and she's also there for me when I can be juicy and spread it out.
It seems that a strong sense of community comes along with religious affiliation. A good portion of the world isn't religious. What do you think community means on the grander scale?
I have experienced in those kind of circles a lot of barriers, as well, within a religious... there's a lot of times too many rules and there's walls put up; people treating each other poorly in the name of those things. And I've had those experiences as well. And that is very divisive. But I think in terms of the broader scheme of that, what I love about a religious viewpoint, at least for me, is looking at the dignity of each person. In a Catholic lens we have the preferential option for the poor - to look for people that are downtrodden by our society and say these people need to be given dignity. They need to realize that they are also important, marvelous, amazing - that they are also loved. So, that's what I think the broader version is. Each person is... there's no throwaway people. My ideal society would not be one where we all practice the same religion. It would just be one where we are caring of each other and we take the time to say there's a person in our community - whether it's somebody who's normally part of our community and just is having a rough time or somebody that we notice is living out in the street - and say we need to invest a lot of energy. And it may take a lot of time and frustration, but let's take the time and do it. I don't always do that. I would like to be better at it. I think that's kind of what the ideal would be for me.
In the seemingly growing realm of social injustice, is there something in there that concerns you most?
I work with a lot of children, so I just see too many kids suffer. So, that really bothers me. And often times it's because their parents have needs not because they're bad people, just because they have needs that aren't being met and they need help and it just gets passed on. So, I just feel sad about that. The fact that stress and pain gets passed on to children - that's definitely bothersome to me. I don't know, we just have a long ways to go in social injustice, I feel. And Bend is (laughs) trying. Bend is growing. And Bend will hopefully become even more accepting. I don't think people necessarily have strong attitudes against equality or justice...
Do you see any kind of beacon towards bringing together all the different and sometimes opposing factions of people fighting for a particular social justice?
I think we feel, probably rightfully so, as people in many ways and definitely in our society, a huge time pressure. So, to me, there's always this idea of we've got to do all these things. And I think it's easy to put things on back burners. Because it feels like we have obligations for whatever it is; families, jobs, so many things - it's part of our society. But I think that we are more than adequate to solve our problems if we choose to make the time for it to happen. We have the ability to communicate. We have the mental capacity, the history - things like that. So, I'm optimistic that way. I just think it is making the choice of saying Let's just pause. Let's put some things on hold. Which is not practical in many ways for many people 'cause it feels like the world stops if we're not doing our routines or whatever things we're doing. For many of us. I mean, not all of us live in that time realm. But, I guess, being a guy with young kids and both working parents and things like that, it feels like that a lot to us. And it feels like that with a lot of my friends, too. We just feel like we can't add another thing. Like, that's it. There's too many other things - too many balls spinning. But it's the big, important ones that we think we should probably stop and grab the plate for a minute and say Okay, let's just all focus and hold this for a minute.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
Yes, a changing sense of purpose. It has been working with children for quite a bit and teaching has felt like the right kind of fit for a long time, but I don't know if that's always going to be it. I like the idea of the sense of purpose of trying to build more community and connection and especially about the idea of building people's dignity and sense of feeling loved and connected. Maybe 'cause I disbelieved those things about myself so many times (laughs). But I feel like that's a purpose at times, for me, is to try to push that way. That's why I started teaching is I got joy from children, but I also feel like I could get in there and try to give kids a positive message about themselves. I think the same with my men's group. I think the same with our church group and things like that, as well. So, I don't know, I guess I'm saying I think my sense of purpose is not absolutely clear and I don't have a particular project or something completely concrete, but I feel like I'm working towards a direction (laughs). Not always well, but...
What do you want more of in your life?
Creativity, self-expression. I tend to get stressed out a lot more by lists and productivity. I mean, I can do those things okay, but I just wish... I like reflection. I like connecting thoughts. And that I can communicate that to others a little bit effectively, too. I feel like I spend a lot of time just doing a lot of stuff. So, more space to be creative. So, in some ways I admire a lot of what you're doing because, in many ways, because it feels like you have a purpose and you're finding an expression there. I think that sounds great. And I try to do little things. I dabble. I write songs; I play them for my friends and my family sometimes. But, you know, I think there's a lot more inner life that can happen.
Do you have anything else you want to put out there?
Yes (laughs). Very few answers about anything absolutely. I've also got to meet some great teachers in my time; they talk about pain that's not transformed is transmitted. So, I just hope that I am doing a decent job of transforming pain that comes in my life and not spreading it out to other people. And I just hope that we can find more ways to be transformative people. I believe, an optimistic thing, that out of hard times like this that we can have something beautiful grow. I've witnessed it many times in nature on our farm; after hard winters, we always have a bloom. There is a resurrection in some way that way. And even though it feels like sometimes it's winter right now, I feel like there's something beautiful that will bloom out. You can look at the MeToo movement - there's parts of that that are extremely beautiful expressions that are coming out in terms of justice. And the people that I work with all the time are talking about with education more restorative justice and having people taking accountability for their actions instead of alway just punishment. We are working on things like, How do you face the wrongs that you've done and try to make right by it? I feel like those are positive glimmers in these spheres that I'm in. I think good things will come.