When fiction and reality intersect

There is a destiny that makes us brothers / None goes his way alone /All that we send into the lives of others / Comes back into our own

You may recognize those lines of poetry from last year’s opening of Guiding Light. Those lines were also recited in earlier introductions to GL when it was broadcast on radio.

This show has intersected with my reality recently in some very surreal ways. There was the trip I made to see the show in December, which was a great experience.

But I’ve been intrigued by a more recent revelation.

I moved to Chicago last year. (I also lived here for a year or so back in the 90s.) For most of that time, I lived in Chicago’s northside. And one of my friends here is a member of the Unitarian church here. (What does this have to do with soaps? Hang in there.)

If you’re not familiar with Unitarianism, it’s a congregation-based religion that draws from all world religions and all sacred texts. I probably can’t do it justice here, but here’s a description from their website: It affirms the worth of human beings, advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth, and tries to provide a warm, open, supportive community for people who believe that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion. Personally, I find it appealing because (a) you can connect and commune with God without having someone browbeat you into seeing their point of view, and (b) when they talk about all religions, it’s often in the context of how they are similar instead of how they are different.

I learned just in the last week or so about a church here called Peoples Church, which was founded and led by a Unitarian minister named Preston Bradley.

And here is where the story gets interesting. Preston Bradley and his populist, comforting sermons were broadcast on the radio. He led that warm, open, supportive community based here in Chicago, and his voice reached many over the radio.

One person that he reached was a young unmarried woman who had just suffered through the end of a relationship and the subsequent stillborn birth of her baby. She was bereft after these losses, and it was Bradley’s radio sermons, where he spoke about the brotherhood of man, that helped her through her pain.

That woman, of course, was Irna Phillips.

And Preston Bradley was the inspiration for Reverend Rutledge – and Guiding Light. It was Bradley’s sermons that was the light in the window for Irna.

And even more mindblowingly? I’ve lived blocks from this building. Walked by it dozens – if not hundreds – of times. The cradle of soaps? Is now in my backyard.

I don’t know what to call it – irony? coincidence? serendipity? – but it’s intriguing and, in a way, comforting to know.

2 thoughts on “When fiction and reality intersect

  1. Funny how life works, isn’t it? When you started talking about the church, I had a feeling I knew where you were going with this. I have the GL 50th Anniversary book from the late 1980s, and that was where I learned about the famous GL speech that Rev. Rutledge would give each year on the radio (and I think the first few years of TV).

    While I didn’t get to see last year’s episode, seeing the words alone in your entry above warmed my heart. I really do think it was a finely written speech then, and it still resonates even today.

    Perhaps you should take some photos of that building. It would be interesting to see the “cradle of soaps”.

    (One last thing: the historian in me would be interested in knowing if someone — anyone — has tried to campaign for a plaque or some historical notation about that being a “birthplace” for daytime drama. I don’t suppose Irna P’s home is still standing? 🙂 )

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