Dog Goes to California

Not long ago I sat in a board meeting while a debate of definitions carried on like determined ants getting their sole piece of kibble up a hill.  All on the same side, yet a struggle when the hill is steep and the load is heavy.  My mind wandered as the voices ran together.  I put my pencil down and turned the page as these words did not need to be written, their dialogue dance was not needed in the minutes of the meeting.  I looked down at my notebook and noticed something written on the divider.  A last-minute addition to my notebook, it came from one of Hayden’s old high school binders.  Thankfully it had been easy to snap, grab, and put into place. I had renamed it, Board Minutes.  On the back of the divider there were lines for notes.  Hayden had written, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree”  *GREAT!!!

Huh… I wonder what that is, and I grabbed my phone and Googled.

It’s a book written in 2000 by Thomas Friedman.  I read the synopsis and learned a bit. As the Foreign Affairs columnist for The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman has traveled to the four corners of the globe, interviewing people from all walks of contemporary life – Brazilian peasants in the Amazon rain forest, new entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Islamic students in Teheran, and the financial wizards on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. Basically, it’s about globalization.

I sat there at the table with a perplexed look on my face reading from my phone as the President asked if it was a good time to take a break?  I agreed, and closed my book on the minutes and the curiosity of what Hayden was reading ended, until now.

As I sit and text with him about “Floaters” from Iowa, I’m reminded how vast his experiences are and his depth of knowledge for being a young man of just twenty-two.  Not to mention his sense of humor, love of movies & TV, history, and all the small things about him that only a few know.  He’s really complex, one in a bazillion-million and I love him beyond measure.   I can offer up this one question and you will also understand his uniqueness.  How many people do you know working a retirement plan with a financial planner at twenty-one?  Not many, right? That was him about a year ago.

He often reminds me about what he wants to do, and that is to make a difference.  Does he want a great job, work hard,  make money, and one day retire with plenty of money?  Of course.  But, I’ve never seen him go too long without witnessing that special part of him that  reaches out to do something for someone else.  He’s a “Pay It Forward” believer and owns, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” — John F. Kennedy  I know he’d love to be some what of a Oprah, a game-changer.  It’s true, I’ve heard the words come out of his mouth.

OKAY, this is not, “Look how cool my kids is!”  I promise!  I’m saying, “Look at what a difference anyone can make in the life of a young person. ”

Many have made a difference to Hayden and in a short time created this special person who’s about to set off for the beginning of his career in film/media production. From his teachers,  friends, neighbors, coworkers, parents,  foster siblings, auntie, sister, girlfriends, aunts & uncs, cousins, to Holocaust survivors and his Japanese host family; each person left an in print that has shaped him.  Hayden is who he is because of what he’s learned from so many and how they’ve impacted his life.  From his childhood nick name, Dog (which came with a great logo drawing of a flaming claw) to his proud professional name Hayden M. Bennett, he has been touched by many great individuals.

Lessons come in all shapes and sizes, and growth happens from nurturing but also from pain and heart ache.  You know, it’s often the refugee from a war-torn country who makes magnificence from his life.  It’s the great American dream proven over and over again by immigrants. In upper and middle class America many young people have lost sight of the American dream and the hard work it takes.  It’s often hoped for as the American hand out, or “I am, therefore I deserve.” In many instances parents take pride in choosing to do things different, and give their kids everything they didn’t have.  Mike and I did that, daily.  We often did/gave too much, and therefore life was pretty easy for our kids.  So, we sent Hayden away.

Hayden in Japan

Okay, we didn’t.   I just thought that would be a great shocker to write.  We were spoiling him, realized it, and then sent him to another country to dig deep and find his American spirit!  Noo, but we did encourage him to find what he loves and what he’s good at and work at it.

These pictures are from when he lived with a family in Osaka, Japan.  He  competed and won out of thousands to be the state’s Sugihara Scholar.

A Special Fate

On that journey he learned from a great teacher/mentor and many masked Japanese students.  But it was the planted seed of Sugihara’s story that grabbed Hayden’s attention.

His host family listens to him speak about diversity at the local school

“Even a hunter cannot kill a bird who comes to him for refuge.” ~Japanese Proverb.  Sugihara was the Japanese Schindler of his time and saved thousands.

The event at the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC ignited a humanitarian passion.  Hayden met so many incredible people and I know the trip had a role in shaping this young man.  The stories he shared when he got home moved me to tears.  Such a fortunate young man to have this experience that he will remember always.

Paul (mentor) and Hayden at the airport.

Hayden and Senator John Lewis

Being congratulated by Dr. Santa Cruz, Principal

Hayden has experienced so much, and learned lessons from others.  And maybe we did give him a lot or helped in too many ways, but he is still able to feel what is right in his heart.  Greatness doesn’t come from how your parents see you or treat you.   It comes from how you see the world, and what you do with your talents.  And I truly feel like this guy is going to be great.

Okay, I totally take credit for drilling in:  A.  Do your best, and then some.  B.  This too shall pass.  C.  Fit most of the moments in your life into one of these three categories; Acceptance, Enthusiasm, Enjoyment.  And D.  Follow your heart.

But the rest is him – his life, God’s plan, and every single person he’s met along the way has nothing to do with me.   Of course I’m proud and excited for him; one of the greatest things in my life is watching my adult kids and how they live.  But I’m also joyful down deep in my soul for the differences he will make in other people’s lives. I’m grateful for those of you reading this that had a part in Hayden’s life; whether big or small, your kindness to my son means a lot to me.

In a short time he’ll be off to get a job in the industry he loves and hopes to impact one day.  No big farewell party, just a M.A.S.H. dinner to reconnect, have the original four back together.   I hope no one has their feelings hurt, and can understand what it may be like to be excited, hopeful, and nervous at the same time.

Ashleigh and Hayden

The goal is set, his game clock starts very soon and all focus/attention is the starting line.   He’s gathered love, ideas, courage, strength, and a sense of purpose from many.

And yet, I must share that it seems like such a short time ago we were yelling from the bleachers, “Throw ’em the CHEESE, Dog.”


(He even had a flaming claw stitched into the back of his baseball hat!)

Ashleigh & Hayden, 17 yrs ago... just about as great as TODAY!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Aunt Deb
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 18:03:03

    How poignant! Your Mother is very proud. You seem to have inherited her best qualities: she was very artistic and sensitive, very beautiful(but she could only see her flaws) and I was a dull little mud hen who wanted to be like her….one thing about Kathy: she lived, and still does, through you and yours, and through me and mine.


    • folab
      Jun 28, 2011 @ 20:07:53

      My mother would have loved my kids, you are so right! I hope one day I can share the other quarter of their biology (half of mine.) It’s just a shame, you know? I do choose to focus the majority of my attention forward… like with Hayden. I am so blessed to have Ashleigh and Hayden, and cannot imagine my life without them.


  2. Stefani
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 23:23:08

    As always another great story. No wonder I love to have you so much in my live and I am so proud to call you part of my family. We have adoption that connects us and you and my mom have both lost mothers and had a simular experience. And you are so much like my mom and dad neither my brother or I ever wanted for anything and they gave both of us so much and still continue. And then there is our children though different we both love them so much and will do any thing to help them out. And I am so glad to have met Hayden and only hope I will get to cross paths again. The only thing that I miss is that my husband is not my best friend and our marriage is rocky. But then you had one to at one time and made it through the rocky times so I only pray that one day Lee will be my best friend.

    Love you Stefani.


    • folab
      Jun 29, 2011 @ 04:29:36

      Thanks for all the love and support, and especially the way you share your life with me. It means a lot that you always ask about my kids, and understand how much I will miss Hayden. It also helps to be a part of your life and your sweet boys, I hope they are doing well this summer and not melting! I hope I can see you this week, grab some Paradise (my turn to buy.) : D yumm


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