‘When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá first arrived in England, he was the guest of a friend in a village not far from London. The evident poverty around him in this wealthy country distressed him greatly. He would walk out in the town, garbed in his white turban and long Persian coat, and all eyes were centered upon this strange visitor, who, the people had been told, was “a holy man from the East”. Naturally the children were attracted to him, followed him, pulled at his coat, or his hand, and were immediately taken into his arms and caressed. This delighted them, of course, and children are never afraid of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but what pleased and amazed them still more was that when they were put down, they found in their little hands a shilling or sixpence from the capacious pockets of “the holy Man’s” long coat. Such bits of silver were a rarity in their experience, and they ran home with joy to tell the tale of the generous stranger from the Orient, possessed apparently of an endless store of shining sixpences. ‘The children crowded after him and so many sixpences were dispensed that the friend who entertained ‘Abdu’l-Bahá became alarmed, and talked the matter over with Miss Robarts, who was also a guest in the house. “It is a shame!” they said indignantly. “He comes to us accepting nothing, and is giving to our people all the time! It must not go on!”
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 73)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to a Christmas party for the poor, and He was so kind and sweet to the children that many of them thought He was Father Christmas and started to sing a song in his praise! Children always loved Him, and though they were not used to seeing oriental gentlemen in flowing robes and turbans, they were never afraid of him. They came to Him and sat on His knee quite as mice with their arms round His neck. He stroked their hair as he talked to everyone. In many places in the west, children would follow Him down the street, and when they came to visit Him he would give them flowers and delicious chocolates.
The Master loved children. It was observed that ‘many of His talks were given as He sat with His arm encircling one of them.’ To parents He would speak in the following vein: ‘Give this child a good education; make every effort that it may have the best you can afford, so that it may be enable to enjoy the advantage of this glorious age. Do all you can to encourage spirituality in them.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 140)
On 5 May, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá met with a group of 35 children in the hotel salon. After listening to them sing the song “Softly, His Voice Is Calling Now", the Master called each child to him individually. Some He took on His lap, others He kissed or stroked their hair: … All with such infinite love and tenderness shining in His eyes and thrilling in the tones of His voice, that when He whispered in English in their ears to tell him their names, they answered joyfully and freely as they would to a beloved father … The children’s joy in His own happiness seemed to culminate as one dear little tot ran to Him and fairly threw herself into His arms. Afterwards, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave each child an envelope full of rose petals, then invited them all to Lincoln Park, across the road from the hotel for a photograph.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 117)
The diary of Juliet Thompson mentions a time when she when uninvited following the Master to a Luncheon and saw many children come out of a park on sighting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and follow Him up the street in a long line. They asked if he was Jesus.
The Peterborough Transcript reported, “the venerable Persian, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, bears so much resemblance to Santa Claus that two little tots begged to take out their go-kart and get it filled with presents from him. They had espied the supposed Santa Claus sitting on the piazza of the Wilcox Inn and felt that the opportunity was too good not to be improved.”
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 153)