“Lord, help me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.” Honoring Cookie Caldwell

Religious Education, Young Friends

Cookie Caldwell is exactly the kind of person his dog Lucy thinks he is. Fun. Kind. Gentle. Full of happy energy. A wonderful baker. The best friend. Always up for a good walk. The alpha male.

These are qualities that Cookie brought to every one of his 34 years with PYM and continues to bring to his every endeavor: to every single gathering, to every service project, to every working group, to every Young Friend.

We have all been touched and blessed by his presence. We have benefitted from his amazing attention to detail in planning and organization. His ability to tune in to the Young Friends of PYM is phenomenal—listening, taking notes, holding in the light, meeting needs and serving with youthful energy that matches those in his care. Even after all these years, he still has his finger on the pulse of Quaker youth and his heart is genuinely dedicated in service to them, and, because youth are our future, also in service to the world at large.

The Creator did not hold back when doling out Spirit to this dear man. Cookie’s heart is gargantuan and his love never fails. He welcomes each person and treats all with respect and enthusiasm. If he had a tail, it would always be wagging. While he is renowned for regaling us with his stories, thousands of us who have been under his care can testify, each with stories of our own, as to how he has nurtured us with his gift of listening deeply and being fully present, knowing where to direct us for help.

On his way into our hearts, one route he has taken is through our stomachs, manifesting his love for us in the kitchen. Kneading the dough and perfecting his recipes, he has mastered twenty kinds of soda bread (our vegan favorite is chocolate chocolate chip), skull-shaped dead bread for Dia de los Muertos, and exquisite pizza crusts. Cookie knows that almost nothing comforts better than a warm slice of homemade bread when you’re far away from home and family.

Cookie has always modeled what it looks like to be a Quaker adult with the vibrant light of youth still alive and glowing from within. He maintains a strong base of common sense (a commodity so rare, it’s almost a super power) and still manages to laugh and play as much as any Young Friend.

What will become of Young Friends when Cookie goes? It’s almost unthinkable. He’s been the alpha male for 34 years. We have relied upon him in the best possible way and it’s hard to imagine the program without him. Cookie Caldwell has been the man behind the scenes and the underlying reason why the Young Friends program continues to be the anchor upon which Quaker youth depend. Our salvation may be that through his service he has modeled for us how to be good humans who are eager for yet another walk, even if it is without him. Thank you, Cookie Caldwell. If we had tails, they would be wagging with gratitude.

And Lucy enthusiastically agrees.

Zan Lombardo is the Adult Clerk for Young Friends