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The Divine Colleen Zuck

 

Having served as a messenger of Unity's teachings for 40 years, the longtime editor of Daily Word® is retiring to focus on authoring books. She tells Unity Magazine® about how she came to Unity looking for a job, but found a spiritual life.

 

By Toni Lapp

 

The young, single mother had heard of the job through a friend whose father worked in the printing department of Unity School of Christianity. Having worked at a downtown Kansas City advertising agency, she was eager for a change, and the pastoral setting of Unity Village appealed to her. She started her new job on January 2, the first working day of 1969.

 

She knew little of Unity. It was simple: “I came to Unity for a job,” she said.

 

As a keyline artist, a key production job in the days before desktop publishing brought automation, she would cut and paste up sections of text, graphics and photographs on a board to produce Unity's many magazines and books.

 

But she soon discovered much more.

 

Colleen Zuck, longtime editor of Daily Word, retired this spring after 40 years of service. In her farewell letter in the June issue, she writes what Unity came to mean for her:

 

 What I discovered early on is that I had found a new way of life. Over the years, the Unity teachings and the people here have supported me through both the most challenging and the most rewarding times of my life.

 

Ground-Level Opportunity

 

Colleen vividly recalls her working environment at Unity Village : a dark, windowless room at ground level, where she could hear the rumblings of the nearby printing presses.

 

At first, Colleen found Unity teachings foreign to her own fundamental Christian upbringing. But the more she read from the pages she deftly created for Daily Word, Wee Wisdom®, as well as this magazine, the more the principles took hold.

 

“It really resonated with me,” she said. “The fact that the Christ was within you, waiting for discovery, I thought that made sense.”

 

She soon became familiar with some of the luminaries in the Unity movement: Lowell Fillmore, son of founders Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, would stop by nearly every day and say hello. “He was very friendly,” Colleen recalls. “He'd always comment on the flowers I'd brought in. Sometimes he'd ask, ‘Have you saved any souls today?'”

 

May Rowland, director of Silent Unity, would also become a familiar face and inspiration. “She was a very elegant lady, very composed,” Colleen remembers.

 

When a job opened up for editor of Wee Wisdom, Unity's magazine for children, Colleen applied for it. James Dillet Freeman, then director of Silent Unity, interviewed her. “I was quaking in my boots,” Colleen says. “He was like a rock star of Unity, but, of course, he was very nice.” She got the job.

 

At the suggestion of Charles Rickert Fillmore, then-president of Unity, Colleen began connecting directly to readers of Wee Wisdom. Through her editor's column she would share her love of prayer and wisdom that came from raising her own child.

 

Things were changing in her personal life as well: In 1976, she married Bill Zuck. Their blended family included Bill's four daughters and Colleen's son.

 

An Editor's Editor

 

In 1985, she was tapped by Daily Word for the editor's job, and she was on her way to becoming one of the movement's most prolific authors and foremost proponents.

 

A wordsmith at heart, Colleen moved into the editor's office in the Silent Unity building and promptly began editing the content for Daily Word. One of the first pieces she turned her pen to was an article by James Dillet Freeman, who by then had retired as director of Silent Unity.

 

When a colleague saw that Colleen had made changes to the article penned by the poet laureate of Unity, she warned the new editor, “No one edits Jim Freeman!”

 

“I thought that was what I was supposed to do,” she said.

 

She nervously anticipated a showdown with Freeman.

 

“The next time he saw me, he mentioned, ‘I see you edited my piece,'” Colleen recalled. “I said, ‘Yes, you had such a great idea, I wanted to make sure it was as clear as possible.'”

 

James Freeman nodded in acceptance of the explanation, and Colleen breathed a sigh of relief.

 

Following the tradition she started with Wee Wisdom, Colleen began writing a regular letter to readers of Daily Word. From the page, she built an instant connection with readers.

 

She told about her upbringing, the wonderful memories of growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, in a family that had “little money, but a lot of love.” She wrote of learning to say her bedtime prayers with her mother at her side. She described her family's hardships, and how one Christmas her parents had to scrape money together to buy one gift each for her three brothers and her.

 

And readers responded.

 

When she related how her mom made cornbread “using a pinch of this and a dash of that,” a reader sent in measuring spoons marked in “pinches” and “dashes.”

 

When she wrote of adopting Murphy, a dog rescued from Hurricane Katrina, a reader sent in dog accessories.

 

When she wrote of her son's battle with cancer and her mother's diagnosis of Alzheimer's, calls and letters poured in. Many of the missives were displayed in her office and then retired for safekeeping in an antique hatbox.

 

Because of the connections she made with readers, she became a sort of ambassador for Unity. When retreat participants came to Unity Village, they often requested to meet her. Lynne Brown, vice president of Silent Unity, would travel to events with Colleen, and the two would represent the organization.

 

“People felt they'd known Colleen for years,” says Brown, “even when they'd just been introduced. There was just this instant connectedness.”

 

Inspiring Stories

 

As editor, Colleen would scout out stories of inspiration to tell in Daily Word. These features, a mainstay of the magazine, included first-person accounts from such celebrities as actress Betty White, news anchor Robin Roberts and TV host Bob Barker, as well as spiritual teachers such as Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer.

 

But the stories also came from ordinary people. In one issue Colleen described how she was waiting for a flight at an airport when she saw Jeremy Hankins, of rural Kansas, tenderly caring for his daughter Bailey. The young girl suffered from a debilitating disorder and was returning home to rural Kansas after participating in a clinical trial. The scene brought back a memory from Colleen's own childhood of how her own father used to gently carry her from her bedroom to the living room when she had been stricken with rheumatic fever. The Hankins' story was soon featured in Daily Word.

 

Not all the features had happy resolutions. One writer in particular, Deborah Santana, charmed Colleen—and readers—with her story of how she met her husband, famed guitarist Carlos Santana, at a time when they were both seeking God. She wrote of how they meditated every morning and practiced yoga together, and how they were blessed with three children who taught her the meaning of selfless love.

 

News that the couple separated saddened Colleen.

 

“Anytime I've heard someone's story and admired them I feel for them,” she said. “The thing to do is pray for them.”

 

But she concedes, she was heartbroken for Deborah. “I like happy endings to everything.”

 

Colleen's own story of faith could very well have been a Daily Word feature. For years, her mother struggled with Alzheimer's disease. In May 2007, Colleen told readers: Her expressions of love have been limited to the look in her eyes and the smile on her face.

 

And while she was caring for her mother, her son was diagnosed with cancer. It was a difficult time, but one that faith saw her through.

 

I went to my mother, laid my head on her shoulder, and simply said, “Mama.” In that moment, I felt her silent but unmistakable message of love for both John and me and her faith in God to heal John. She was right. John was healed.

 

In May 2008, she wrote that it was her first Mother's Day in which she wouldn't be giving her mother a card.

 

Living the Message

 

What most impresses Silent Unity Vice President Lynne Brown about Colleen is that she “walks the walk.” Not only did she labor behind the scenes on Daily Word, but she was a living example of the principles espoused on its pages.

 

“She has such a passionate faith, a belief in the potential that each message carries to not only inspire hearts but transform lives,” said Brown. “It is an unwavering faith.”

 

Each Daily Word entry carries an inspirational message, a Bible verse relating to the message, and an affirmation that further reinforces the message.

 

Colleen's favorite affirmation is “Let go, let God.”

 

 “It's kind of like a correction for your way of thinking,” she explains. “Because of my upbringing I tend to be a worrier; I almost feel like it's an obligation to worry. When you say ‘Let go, let God,' it stops you in your tracks.”

 

Many Daily Word readers describe happening upon the magazine during a time of need. One such person was Diane Brandenburg, who had been struggling with marital problems and the deaths of several people dear to her. Brandenburg had never heard of Unity when she received a copy of Daily Word from her mother. She later wrote about the experience: “Daily Word pulled me through this time of depression by reinstating my Christian faith and giving me a tool to use in moving forward with my life,” she said. “I think Daily Word possibly saved my life. That is a strong statement, but I believe it's true.”

 

Testimonials such as Brandenburg's mean as much to Zuck as learning that celebrities are reading the magazine. When a women's magazine reported that reading Daily Word was part of Oprah Winfrey's morning routine, Zuck downplayed it with her typical humility.

 

“It just spoke that Daily Word is for anyone who needs a source of inspiration,” she demurred. “You look at people in the limelight, but you realize that every one of us is a child of God. They're reading the same thing I am that day—it underscores our oneness.”

 

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