My parents both worked in the era before day care. They went through several live-in nannies (one emptied the liquor cabinet; another was planning to baby-nap me in a ’49 Chevy!) before hiring a lovely 50-something widow who had no children of her own. I was 6 months old.
Family lore has it that when I saw her for the first time, I reached up to her and called out, “Dede!” (Her name was Adelene DeSoto.) She told me later that we’d probably known each other in a past life. It made sense to me, as did everything about Dede. Dede was “metaphysical,” and so was I.
Although she had sampled a smorgasbord of spiritual teachings, Unity was her main course. She read Daily Word every day, and I was fascinated by the oversized capital letter at the start of each lesson. “W” was the best: two overlapping “V’s” that seemed altogether extraordinary. I wanted to know what the letters meant. I wanted to read. So Dede taught me, at age 3, from the pages of Daily Word.
We lived in Kansas City, where Unity is headquartered, and Dede had studied with cofounder Charles Fillmore himself. She taught me what she had learned from him: that all religions were to be honored and all were trying to help us get to the same place—God consciousness. She said the Bible was indeed the Good Book, but that it had been written by humans, translated many times, and that its most valuable teachings were found under layers of metaphor and metaphysics. Nearly every day she reminded me that looking on the bright side wouldn’t just make me feel better: It could actually help shape the life of my dreams.
I got a dose of Fillmore’s dietary advice when I came home from first grade announcing my mastery of the Four Food Groups: the Meat Group, Milk Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, and Bread and Cereal Group. “Humpf,” Dede replied. (She could enunciate “Humpf” rather remarkably.) “There are some people who never eat meat. They’re called vegetarians and I could take you to the cafeteria at Unity Village and get you a hamburger made out of peanuts: you’d think you were eating beef.” I’m sure that childhood conversation was instrumental in my becoming a vegetarian (eating no meat or fish) and ultimately vegan (eliminating all animal products from my diet).
Early exposure to Daily Word and other Unity literature influenced me far beyond my grocery choices. I was lucky enough to grow up with a sense of the mystical—nothing woo-woo, just the idea that there is more to life than good days and bad days, more to life than working 9 to 5. In the years when I learned the ABCs, the state capitals, and elementary algebra, I also absorbed the concept that life is eternal and magical and that God lives inside me every bit as much as anywhere else. “‘Christ in you, your hope of glory.’ That was Charles Fillmore’s favorite Bible verse,” Dede would say.
I accepted her simple, spectacular supposition that there is exquisite meaning to who we are and what we do; in fact, I built a life on it. When I was 19, two lessons I wrote appeared in Daily Word. That wasn’t the first time I’d been published, but it was the first time I was “spiritually published.” I had written something from my soul that was now appearing in the transformational little magazine that enticed me to read long before school and phonics and Dick and Jane.
And now I’m writing for Daily Word again. I’m the age Dede was when she taught me about big “Was” and positive thinking. The world is different. The Truth isn’t. That’s what makes it so much fun to come full circle.