Some people have a very special gift: when you’re in their presence, your day seems a little brighter, and you find yourself feeling better about the world.
Gloria Eaker is one of those people. What’s remarkable is not only that she has this gift, but that she is able to radiate cheerfulness and optimism in the face of significant personal challenges.
Gloria has been a volunteer at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists for the past six years, and one of her main assignments has been to assist AWR (as well as the Adventist Mission department) with various office tasks. But recently, we suddenly received her resignation notice. Gloria is 84 years old, and sadly, the complications of being a senior are now preventing her from doing what she loves.
And she definitely has loved being at the GC … as evidenced by her 41 years of employment here, where she worked in the same department the entire time.
She says, “I started in 1952, in what was known as the GC Insurance Service [now Adventist Risk Management].
“In those days, at the old GC complex in Takoma Park, we survived without air conditioners, used manual typewriters, and walked up to the 10th floor to eat in the cafeteria. We did get computers in due course, but the first ones did not include a mouse, and we didn’t have e-mail. Things have changed a lot!”
One of the funniest quotes during this interview came when Gloria said, “We didn’t work as hard back then, but of course, we didn’t have computers.”
This apparently made time for the popular activity of decorating coworkers’ offices – after working hours, she emphasizes – for any and all occasions. Gloria has an album full of photos documenting elaborate Christmas, Halloween, and birthday scenes constructed around her cubicle. The pièce de résistance was the year of the castle – complete with cardboard walls, Kleenex curtains, and a tall silver crown.
But what Gloria dwells on most are the personal relationships that make any workplace satisfying. “Comparing yesterday’s office with today’s, it seems that you got to know more people back then. Today, everyone is more busy and spread out. But I still love everybody here – people are so friendly and warm and give you hugs. I’ve liked working as a volunteer, and would do it all over again.”
It must be this welcome that has kept Gloria coming back every Tuesday and Thursday, slowly making her way through the halls with her cane, and holding on to the notebook that makes it possible for people to communicate with her.
You see, Gloria has been deaf for nearly 50 years. As a child, she lost hearing in one ear, and by the 1960s, the hearing in her other ear began to deteriorate. Medication and surgery didn’t help, and one morning, Gloria woke up to find that her hearing was completely gone.
“It was very hard,” she says. “I can’t say I was 100 percent discouraged, but I really missed talking to my friends. One day you can hear, and the next day you can’t hear anything. I tried lots of different hearing aids, but they didn’t work out very well, and I couldn’t see putting out more money for them. I studied sign language for a year, but wasn’t able to learn it very well.”
Many people would be tempted to give in to discouragement, but Gloria says, “I feel like my faith has always been strong, and I’ve always come back from the punches somehow or other. I believe that the slightest laugh is better than none.”
Gloria’s faith will be tested more than ever now, as her eyesight is also failing. Yet she says, “God still rules the world, and I know He’ll bring me through. I feel like I’m better off than some people. Don’t give up – God loves you, just as He loves everyone else. Keep pressing on, and someday Jesus will come.”
Yes, there’s a good reason for the nickname Gloria’s coworkers gave her so many years ago: they called her “Glo.”