My paraphrase of an old saying I think to be true: "Though some only enter our lives for a season, everyone who enters does so for a reason."
This week, I received news from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary — from where I attained my master's degree in religious studies — that back in October, a woman who had entered a lot of lives and made a difference in so many passed on to be with her Maker.
I only knew Glendora Paul — who was a co-founder of the seminary's World Mission Initiative program — for a short season of our lives, as I spent three years at the seminary and didn't really know her very well until the last year or so that I was there. But one thing is certain to me: that Glendora was one of those who made it easy to see the reason she was in your life for a season.
While I know the number of people in town who are familiar with Glendora may be limited to myself, and maybe even just a few others, I felt it appropriate after The Spirit spent last week highlighting five women
in town who the Career Women's Club recognized as worthy role models, to take the time to talk about another woman who I think served as a positive model to all she met.
Glendora was small in stature, standing at what I would guess was about 4 feet, 8 inches tall, but her presence was known to those around her for many other reasons.
She was known as the woman on campus who wore her colorful saris, and the smile she would flash you shined brighter than any of those saris did.
I knew of Glendora while I was a student on campus for two years, but it was actually in the one year after I graduated that I was able to get to know her, as I worked in the cafeteria and she was a regular visitor.
Glendora came in on almost a daily basis, and her positivity drew people to her. My interaction with her usually came at the cash register, which I frequently ran during the lunch hour.
A few months into those cash register chats, Glendora started to sign off with a regular line, one that still echoes in my
mind to this day on occasion.
No matter what we were talking about, I'd always close by telling her to have a wonderful day as she headed over to the eating area. And almost always, Glendora would look at me, smile and say, "You're a good man, Zak."
Now, I'm not the type who needs constant encouragement or praise from others. In fact, it often makes me uncomfortable. But there were certain days when Glendora would say it that it was exactly what I needed to hear.
The thing about Glendora was that it was obvious that she cared for you — and not just because she knew you and/or liked you. She cared for you because of who you were created to be.
Her passion was overseas missions, and her work and volunteer hours at the seminary made that obvious. But in the years that I knew her, her own mission field was the campus at Pittsburgh Theological, and she served that field so well, leaving an impression on all who were blessed enough to meet her.
Glendora loved people not just for who they were, but for who they were created to be — in the image of her Maker, whom she loved so much.
And in a time of my life where I was living in a big city — so distant from my small-town upbringing — and missing my family, as my grandfather was battling cancer, it was good to know that somebody who was close by cared.
When I made the decision to move home and be closer to family in my grandfather's illness, Glendora's message was the same to me as it had been so many other times: "You're a good man, Zak."
And while I never felt deserving of the praise, I humbly accepted it just as I had so many other times. Because when a woman of that stature — spiritual stature, not physical — speaks, I've learned that it's best to take her words to heart.
You may not have known Glendora Paul, but if you're reading this column, you're getting to know at least a little part of me.
Glendora, Charlotte Fye — who taught me in second grade and who I wrote the Career Women's article on last week — and so many others who have touched my life will always live on, in a way, through the
lessons they taught that I will try to pass on.
Whether it's the lesson that education is valuable both in and outside the classroom or the lesson that, sometimes, we all just need someone to remind us that we are meaningful, these lessons live on forever.
The world needs more positive role models. The world needs more Glendora Pauls. And I can only hope that a small part of me can live out the lessons she taught me in the brief season I knew her.
Glendora, even if I never told you in such words, you were a good woman. I say thank you, and you will be missed.
Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit.