WALNUT CREEK -- Circulation is the fluid movement of a substance or idea within a system. "Circulation Day" is a flowing exchange of material goods and spiritual good will at Unity of Walnut Creek.
Riding on the swell of contemporary society's dedication to recycling and repurposing, the annual free dispensation of high-quality items has been confounding visitors for eight years.
"Since we began this program, our congregation has been giving us their highest quality goods on the Friday before the (July 20) event," explains Youth Education Director Lani Lee. "Come Saturday, we give everything away for free."
Sounds simple, even quaint. But the sight of high-end televisions, Louis Vuitton purses, $1,000 golf clubs and nearly-new toys, clothing, electronic and computer components stops most visitors in their tracks. Recycling cans and bottles is one thing: Unity takes it to a higher level, both literally and spiritually.
"People have a hard time receiving," Lee says, "especially beautiful things, because we don't give broken things. It's about karma and opening our hearts to prosperity."
Unity is a spiritual center started in Walnut Creek in 1948, It follows the practices and principles of Myrtle and Charles Fillmore. Spurred by the Fillmores' belief that prayer had healed Myrtle's tuberculosis in the late 1880s, Unity has grown to become a 900-community international movement associated with Unity Worldwide Ministries, centered in Missouri. At Unity's Geary Street location in Walnut Creek, worship services, classes, workshops, adult and youth groups and social events broadcast abundant giving, says Lee.
Jeff Cushing has been a member of the congregation since 1972. On hand to "do intake," he says "Circulation Day" is a demonstration of letting go.
"It's making room for other things like emotional or spiritual release. They take the place of things we no longer need," he says.
And he should know. Cushing says his house is clean and each year, he's learned what he needs and what he does not need. In the process, he feels and shares relief with his fellow congregants as the satisfaction of releasing physical needs "opens people up."
On "Circulation Day," a freewill offering is encouraged, but not required. Lee says most people give something and the average intake -- about $3,000 annually -- supports the center's youth retreats and programs. Children participate in the day; organizing the donations, carrying items to people's cars and learning about the relative wealth of humanity.
"They ask if one dollar is fair to give for a $1,000 TV," Lee says. "I tell them we create our own poverty by how we think. Even if you are the richest (person) in the world, you can have nothing because you are not grateful, or because you always want more. 'Poor' is a state of awareness."
But for some, "poor" is a harsh, honest-to-God reality, and Lee has seen her share of "people living in lack." She says some people "come and take and take," but Unity's purpose is to uphold them and show them there is enough for all. Reminding "takers" to be mindful and to leave things for others is a delicate task; delivered with love, the message is often accepted, Cushing and Lee say.
Cynics and skeptics -- and those people living in underserved, impoverished communities -- will likely regard Lee's claims of "universal abundance" with disbelief. They might have to "see it to believe it." Mark your calendar and check back in July 2014, when the free-flowing circulation of all things good will make a divided, differently-blessed world just a but more unified.