CHAPTER XIV — A Day to Remember
On the day that Mrs. Towne’s invitation arrived, there came another even more portentous letter. It was from Charles Fillmore, founder-president of Unity School, inviting me to come to headquarters to speak at their Summer Training School on the subject of Prosperity. Many of the articles I had written for Unity stressed this theme, because I had had to demonstrate this in my own life. In those early days aspiring Truth teachers made their own way—even in Unity.
I can still mentally hear Myrtle Fillmore admonishing them to go forth without scrip or purse, echoing Jesus’ admonitions, just as she and Charles had done and continued to do. I felt I could speak with authority about prosperity because I had had to prove its law. When, some time later, I conducted a class based on my own book, Adventures In Prosperity, a member of the class arose and challenged me: “It’s all very well for you to get up there and tell us how to prosper. You don’t know what it is to be poor, not to know where the next meal is coming from, or how to pay the rent.”
I was tempted to say, “I do! Oh, yes, I do!” But instead I answered: “By saying that I don’t know lack, you’ve just given me a great prosperity treatment. Now let us join in a realization for ourselves and one another:
“I know no lack. God is my instant, constant and abundant supply, coming to me in both expected and unexpected ways, under grace and perfect law.”
Prescription for Youthfulness
There is one other friend who reappeared in my life during the Minneapolis ministry, a woman of perhaps fifty but looking more like 35. Her name was Grace Wilson. Retired, she had been ordained in one of the smaller New Thought groups, Divine Science, if I remember rightly. I was impressed by her poise and forth-rightness, her persistence in self-discipline. I met her in San Diego, then at the I.N.T.A. Congress, and we had become friends.
"How do you manage to look so much younger than your years?” I asked her.
“Very simply, Ernest. Every day after lunch, I take time out to relax and go to sleep for ten minutes. I can fall asleep in a few moments. I instruct my subconscious to waken me in ten minutes, and it does so. I awaken refreshed and renewed.”
When she felt no longer needed in the little ministry of which she had been an assistant, she sought a new channel of service. She found in the want ads of the Los Angeles Times a blind ad of a minister seeking a visitational assistant. She applied and was employed by the minister of one of the traditional churches. A man friend of hers was despondent over financial matters and a marital separation and had appealed to her for help.
“Let me come and prepare a home-cooked meal for you; it will cheer you up and we’ll have a good talk.”
She left, thinking he was cheered up, but he was found, shot in the temple, and she was suspected of complicity.
She was cleared of any wrong doing, saddened by his death which was judged to have been by his own hand. “But how fortunate that I was associated with a most respectable church in an executive capacity. How different the publicity might have been if I had been a woman minister in what the press would call an aberrant cult, as they would be tempted to call it.”
She came to Minneapolis to visit local relatives, again footloose but still youthful appearing, and not really ready for retirement. Her appearance at my office door one day was a happy surprise to me, but starting off on a dissident note that startled me. Someone had presented me with a handsome statue representing the Buddha, and without giving any thought to the matter, I had placed it on a small table in my office. It was the first thing her eyes lighted on after we greeted each other.
“What is that statue doing here?” she exclaimed.
This struck my funny bone. “Nothing,” I said, “It’s just sitting there. Why?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be a Christian minister?”
“Not supposed to be. I am.”
“Then if you’re going to have a statue at all, it should be one of the Master, Jesus.” she asserted.
“You’re quite right. I hadn’t thought that it might be misleading.”
She became a teacher with us, well liked by our following.
The long marble hall leading to my office played a part—though not a silent one—in my counselling. It often reported by the sound of footsteps whether a man or woman was approaching, and if more than one, by the sound of their voices.
It told me one day that a handicapped man was on his way; the steps were uneven and jerky.
Re: Drinking and Smoking
The report was confirmed. His breath added that he had been drinking. The reports were related. He wanted help in overcoming his addiction to drink, and the physical imbalance that, hopefully, sobriety would ameliorate. We had a prayerful session; prayers and admonitions on my part, repetitions and resolutions on his. The pattern was repeated weekly for perhaps two months. I formed the habit of listening for the hall’s report and his. Then one day the hall’s report was different; the stride was quicker, more even. My imbibing friend looked animated, excited.
“What’s the good news?” I cried.
“Doctor, it is good news. I only get drunk once a week now!”
Drunk once a week! Is that good news? Once at all would be bad news for most of us. But for this man, who had made some kind of record for constant inebriation, this was a great overcoming, maybe a greater one than many have made in a lifetime! What I like to call a mini-miracle.
Speaking of which, in my Hollywood ‘incarnation,’ yet to come, almost all of my friends, except for a few teetotalers, would hardly let a guest be seated, before the invitation, “What would you like to drink?”
How to handle this was a question with whose answer on my part you might not agree. It came roundabout from my Kansas City experience in speaking at men’s luncheon clubs in the 30’s, when book reviews were popular. Magnificent Obsession and How To Win Friends were two that I helped to publicize in Mid-America. After the main course of the luncheon, seated at the head table, out of the corner of my eye I’d see my neighbor start to reach for a cigaret, then glancing at me, mentally say, “Oh, we’ve got a long-hair with us,” and regretfully arrest the gesture.
I soon learned to say the magic phrase, “Say, have you got a cigaret?” Eagerly, like throwing a life-saver to a drowning man, he proferred me a smoke, holding his lighter for me. The arm gesture, like a wave, would spread both ways from center.
In Hollywood, my rejecting an offer of refreshment did not keep others from imbibing. It just made me appear in a “holier than thou” role. I’m not an extremist, anyway. Everything—well, almost—in moderation, has long been my motto, so I’d just say, “Thanks, whatever you’re having,” and take a sip when it appeared.
One abstemious spinster, having discovered that two women friends who shared a spacious home—a voice coach and an interior designer—often invited me to a dinner with some of their other friends, approached one of them with the question, “I know you entertain Doctor Wilson. I don’t suppose he ever takes a drink, does he?” One of the hostesses, Harriet Lee mirthfully passed this query on to me.
“Harriet, what did you say?” I demanded.
“I just said I’d never known you to refuse one and never known you to finish one.”
“Touche! That’s perfect!”
I’m tempted to go on with anecdotes here, just as if I were now reliving another tug on the emotions by a work that had not yet come close to its potential, and one that looked very promising, but was still in the future. I had been weighed at Unity. Would I be found wanting?
Guest Speaker at Unity!
I recalled my earlier visit to Unity headquarters, as the shy youngster who timidly wondered if there was a place for him in its ministry.
Now it was as if I were seeing Kansas City for the first time, for I came as an invited guest. I was in a kind of happy daze as I ascended the long flight of stairs to the main concourse of the Union Station and paused for a moment to get my breath and let go the heavy bag I was carrying. At that time, in the early twenties, Union Station was the crowded center of travel to all parts of the country. It is still an impressive structure, and efforts are being made to preserve it as an historical landmark, but now it is the loneliest place in town, its mass dwarfed by Crown Center.
© 1984, by Ronald and Beverly Potter
All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.