She taught me that I should remove my hat indoors. She taught me how to befriend kids who needed someone. She taught me how to read, how to tie my shoes, and to never be ashamed of being smart.
She helped set the course of my life as my kindergarten teacher…so I guess it’s true. Everything you need to know in life, you really can learn in kindergarten.
Kindergarten teachers are wise. People think they just teach you foundations for learning – but what they mostly teach are foundations for living.
I was not blessed to have Cindy as a kindergarten teacher…she would say ‘Thank God – do you know how old that would make me??!’….but I was so blessed to have that wonderful kindergarten teacher bring life-lessons alive right smack in the middle of my family.
I know many of you share her legacy with me, in that regard. And you have learned the same lessons from her that I have.
I learned from Cindy that optimism is a choice. I have never met a more ‘look-on-the-bright-side-find-a-silver-lining’ kind of person… It’s not that Cindy never complained or got cross – she was human. But she never, ever left a conversation like that on a downward note. Cindy would say things like “I can’t believe I am stuck in Florida while my cats are in Texas and there’s a hurricane in the Gulf!!! Well, at least I live on the 3rd floor.” She always ended on the uptake. I need to incorporate that lesson into my life….
I learned from her how to take pride in my kids. Cindy never missed an opportunity to sing the praises of Brian and Leslie. As well she should – they are accomplished, altogether amazing human beings. And Cindy was the consummate proud mother – pictures everywhere, never a missed opportunity to brag, and always giving them full credit for their accomplishments. The two of you truly were her heartbeat – her pride and joy.
I learned from Cindy that you never get too old for Webkinz – or Disney movies – or to stretch your comfort zones. Something I didn’t know about Cindy when we first met…she was kind of ‘routined.’ I didn’t know that about her – because it seemed like every time I asked her to do something…it was an automatic yes. “Cindy – come with me on a backpacking trip to CO with 30 teenagers.” YES. “Cindy – will you go with my family to Chicago and let me drop you off in the center of downtown Chicago with 3 toddlers and 100 bucks?” YES. “Cindy, let Leslie go to London on a mission trip during their height of the nation’s terrorism scare”….well that one took some doing, but ultimately….YES. I just thought adventure hunting, stepping out doing crazy things was a part of who Cindy was. One day she told me – I think it might have been in conjunction with Leslie’s trip to London – “Darren, you know I don’t just do this for everyone. You make me do things I don’t normally do”…..actually, no, Cindy, I didn’t know that. She taught me that day that, contrary to popular belief…even her own belief, she was a risk taker. She showed me her bravery every time she said yes to some hair-brained youth minister thing I wanted to do. And no one – NO ONE – has ever paid me a higher honor.
I also learned from Cindy that you are never too young to be respected and honored. As a youth pastor, my loves are kids and teenagers. Cindy shared that love and is one of the few adults who really connected with kids. She honored and respected them. She always made my kids feel valued, smart, worthy, and successful. She listened to crazy dreams with real interest and helped them believe in those dreams. She never offered the ‘left over’ parts of herself to kids – they always got her ‘main course’ – do you know what I mean? She was always completely engaged when she was with kids – mine, yours, hers. That’s a rare trait possessed by very few adults.
Cindy taught me that it was possible for someone to love my kids as much as I do. Every concert, every birthday, every status update she liked – she reminded me – and my boys – that someone loved them as much as Katie and I. I will forever love her for that lesson.
Cindy taught me – and many of you – that being a ‘mom’ was more about heart, and less about DNA. I took this from her Facebook page – and what has become a true memorial to Cindy’s legacy (which is a little funny and a little ironic since she would hardly use Facebook because she was convinced it was going to give her computer a virus!!)
This is from Josh on Cindy’s Facebook wall: In my childhood I had the privilege of having some very close friends. I was blessed to have the best “Best Friends”. I was blessed to be able to call their moms “Mom” as well. Cindy Schwierzke was one of those ladies. I’ve known her since I was 5, and for years I still at least called or text her on Christmas and Mother’s Day. She was at my wedding, has met my son, encouraged me in all my lacrosse ideas, and till this day I still called her “Mom”… Cindy or Ms. Schwierzke just didn’t seem right. She was a great teacher, a great friend, and you can bet she was a great mom to her kids and to all us other “kids” that she cared for as her own. And with that, all I can say is thank you “Mom”, thank you for blessing me with being part of my life. Love, Josh
My own mom passed away when I was in high school, so I never had a relationship with her as an adult. But my relationship with Cindy was what I always knew my relationship with my mom would be like. She always gave me a listening ear. She cried with me when life was hard – and celebrated when it wasn’t. She always had new markers and coloring books for my boys. She offered to take them when they were younger so Katie and I could go on a date….but one of the things I’ll miss most about Cindy – well….here’s a secret. The summer before my 6th grade year – my mom introduced me to a television show that I still watch to this day. I will never forget the day I discovered that Cindy watched it too – not just watched it, but RECORDED it so she never missed a single episode. Yep – the secret comes out today – I watch The Young and the Restless. And Cindy and I had a weekly phone call where we dish on our soap and she would catch me up on all the episodes I missed. I would tell her what was going to happen the next week – and she would just exclaim in incredulity when it actually happened. I was always amazed that Cindy still couldn’t predict the next episodes since they’ve been running the same tired story lines for the last 35 years.
I learned from Cindy that Jesus is more than church – more than a father’s legacy – more than a person in some ancient pages. Cindy reminded me that Jesus is an action. Whether she was taking my kids on a gift-buying expedition for Toys for Tots, writing a check for a church fundraiser on her teacher’s salary, or leading her girls’ small group – Jesus was an action-word for Cindy. And her legacy shows up in my boys, in the teenagers she invested in – in that girl’s small group. Several of her girls…now adults…have sent me messages this week talking about the influence and impact Cindy had on their lives. One from the mission field in Africa – one from Oklahoma, where she’s married to a youth minister – and one who uses her talents all over the world to engage people in conversations about faith. Cindy passed that legacy on to her small group –and to everyone who knew her. She made Jesus a verb.
Cindy taught me so many other life-lessons…how to get by for months without cooking…ever. How to live incognito in a city where everyone – literally – knows you…and you are so well-loved that they stop you to talk! How to stagger your grocery trips so you’re never lugging more than two bags of groceries to the 3rd floor. How to love people you don’t like. How to forgive people who don’t deserve it. How to live a life of love and legacy.
So as we celebrate Cindy’s legacy – each of us will be reflecting on the lessons we learned from our kindergarten teacher. And as the days turn into weeks, we’ll discover a whole new list of ways Cindy impacted our lives – made us better people – pointed us to God. Embrace that – and share it with others….the way a kindergarten teacher embraces a new student in her classroom…consider it a show and tell assignment. And remember Cindy Schwierzke.