It was at the home of the Kinneys that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed the second time he came to New York and it was from this home that He left to return to Haifa. The day before He was to take ship to leave He asked Mr. Kinney if there was something amongst His belongings that He might offer as a gift of farewell. At first, Mr. Kinney was reluctant to choose, but finally he admitted that well, might he be given a pair of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s boots? Those boots that had sheltered the feet that walked with such serene certainty upon the Path of God? Mr. Kinney would cherish these above all else. So, with smiling love, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave a pair of His boots to Edward Kinney. Reverently and joyfully, Mr. Kinney laid them in a bureau drawer in his bedroom, carefully wrapped in a nest of tissue paper. Very rarely - since the boots were such an intimate and precious thing, were they shown to anyone though Mr. Kinney touched them frequently as he prayed. Then one day, he did wish to show them to someone. He went to the bureau, pulled out the drawer - and the boots were gone - completely gone. No sign of them in the tissue paper, no sign of them in any other drawer, no sign of them in any part of the room which was searched carefully. There simply were no boots anywhere. So Dad Kinney (he became ‘Dad to all the hundreds who loved him) began to pray and he prayed, shaken, from the depths of his troubled soul. Why had the beloved boots been taken from him? Where had they gone? What could have happened? Was he had he become - unworthy to possess them? And, at last, he knew this was it. He was no longer worthy to hold the precious boots. Then why was he no longer worthy? What had he done between the time when he had last held the boots in his hands and the moment when he had discovered their absence? It had been, he estimated, some two, possibly three weeks. So in deepest meditation, he went back, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment over this period. He remembered his actions; he analyzed his motives; he reviewed his thoughts. And suddenly, in a blaze of illumination, he knew what it was. Deeply selfish materialism; clouded hypocritical motives; unjust actions. He had been guilty of all these. But he had deluded himself by calling them such fair and pretty names. No wonder the boots had been taken away. In all justice he had proved himself in no way worthy to hold such treasure. Humbled and ashamed, he prayed abjectly for forgiveness - and then, mournfully, he went to the bureau drawer - just to touch the tissue paper that once had protected the boots. And lo! the boots had returned. They were there, real and tangible; the leather soft beneath his fingertips, the well-worn soles smooth to his touch. They were there, but the warning was never forgotten - the lesson was well learned.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 28)
I spend much of my time travelling, visiting many countries and meeting Bahá’ís and their friends. Very often we will sit and talk about the teachings and about prayer. It is often a surprise to me how some of the friends say they don’t pray. One devoted believer told me that Bahá’u’lláh had said work is worship, that he works so many hours in a week for the Faith he has no time left to pray. Others say they don’t understand prayer, they don’t see why they should pursue it. It seems to me these friends are missing a priceless pearl. A few weeks ago, while I was on a tour, a fine young man asked me if I could give him some comfort, which he said he needed badly, and he explained that he had been living the kind of life that he was sure God could never forgive him for. He asked me, “How can I possibly square myself with God?‘’ My heart ached for him, he was so sincere, and yet I was so glad to be able to assure him that he had already been forgiven, that God is the All-Knowing, the All- Wise, the Ever-Forgiving, the Ever- Loving, the Most-Merciful. Me said, “How I wish I could believe that.” I happened to have a quotation from the Qur‘an in my hand where Muhammad had said, “Prayer is a ladder by which everyone can ascend to heaven.” He seemed to be comforted by that assurance that everyone can ascend to heaven.
(John Robarts: http://bahaitalks.blogspot.in/2011/02/value-of-prayer-talk-by-hand-of-cause.html#more
At one time enemies of the Master, Covenant-breakers who lived in the Mansion next to the Shrine, offered one of Bahá’u’lláh’s cloaks and a pair of His spectacles to the governor of Haifa. They encouraged him to go and visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with the cloak on his shoulders and with the glasses. When he came, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá realized that he was wearing things which had belonged to His Father, and He was deeply grieved. However, He did not say a word and treated the man with His usual extreme courtesy and love. That day passed, but the time came when that same governor was put in prison and in chains. It was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá who hastened to help and liberate him. After receiving such unexpected kindness, he begged for forgiveness saying, ‘It was not my fault. Your enemies misled me into taking such a grievous step.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 91)
That very afternoon, in my room with two of the believers, I spoke against a brother in the truth, finding fault with him, and giving vent to the evil in my own heart by my words … A little later we all went to supper, and my hard heart was unconscious of its error, until, as my eyes sought the beloved face of my Master, I met His gaze, so full of gentleness and compassion that I was smitten to the heart. For in some marvellous way His eyes spoke to me; in that pure and perfect mirror I saw my wretched self and burst into tears. He took no notice of me for a while and everyone kindly continued with the supper while I sat in His dear Presence washing away some of my sins in tears. After a few moments He turned and smiled on me and spoke my name several times as though He were calling me to Him. In an instant such sweet happiness pervaded my soul, my heart was comforted with such infinite hope, that I knew He would cleanse me of all of my sins.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 63)
Alas for the sin of disobedience! He had said “Go and rest.” But we were so anxious to write down His words while they were fresh in our minds that we stayed in the dining room until late, and—shameful to confess after our day in Heaven!—began to argue about the New York Assembly: as to whether or not it was united! Mr Kinney declared that it was. I said it was not. I even went so far as to mention the breeder of the discord, to condemn her destructive work! But when X and I crept off to the room we were temporarily occupying—crept through the black, vaulted halls and rooms, over the old stone floors, to the rear wing of the house—a feeling of guilt such as I could hardly bear consumed me. Next morning when I met our Lord outside the dining room door, in the sunny little court I so love because it is associated with His footsteps, with the benediction of His Presence, looking with eyes that ... forgave? ... no, that understood ... deep, deep into my eyes, He put out His hand and took mine in a clasp of love.
(Diary of Juliet Thompson)
A certain shaykh became very jealous of the respect which he saw given to the Bab during the voyage and daily grew more envious. He made himself objectionable to all the passengers on the boat , molesting and trying to quarrel with everyone, but he singled out the Bab as a particular victim of his abuse and cruelty. The Arab captain of the boat became so exasperated by this man’s behaviour that he ordered his sailors to throw him overboard. When the Bab heard of this, He pleaded the shaykh’s cause with the captain. The captain listened but was still determined to rid himself of this troublesome passenger. When the Bab saw the sailors preparing to hurl the man into the sea, He hurled himself at the shaykh and held on to him, begging the captain to forgive him. The captain was astonished, for he knew that the Bab had suffered more than anyone else on the boat from the insolent behaviour of the shaykh. The Bab explained to the captain that this quarrelsome man was hurting himself far more than he was hurting others by his behaviour and that therefore, they should all be tolerant towards him.
(Mary Perkins, Hour of the Dawn: The Life of the Bab, p. 60-61)
At the Annual Bahá’í Convention held in Chicago in 1923 Jinab-i-Fadil told the following story: A woman went to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, received His teachings and blessings, and asked for a special work. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘Spread the law of love. Live in accord with love, reciprocity and cooperation.’ She answered, ‘I want something special. All Bahá’ís are asked to do this.’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered, ‘Very well. Come tomorrow morning, when you are about to leave, and I will give you the special work.’ She was very happy all that day and night, in anticipation. The next day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said to her, ‘I am going to give you my son that you may educate him physically, mentally and spiritually.’
She was surprised, and was made happy at this. But her surprise gave way to wonder when she reflected that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had no son. What could He mean? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked, ‘Do you know this son of mine?’ Then He told her: In her city there had lived a man, her worst enemy. He had died leaving a son, who no one to take care of him: this was now her task. When she heard this she was overwhelmed. She was spiritually reborn. She wept and said, ‘My Master, I now know what the Bahá’í Cause means.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 106)
One day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, an interpreter, and Howard Colby Ives, at that time a Unitarian minister, were alone in a reception room. Colby Ives later wrote: ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá had been speaking of some Christian doctrine and His interpretation of the words of Christ was so different from the accepted one that I could not restrain an expression of remonstrance. I remember speaking with some heat: “How is it possible to be so sure?” I asked. “No one can say with certainty what Jesus meant after all these centuries of misinterpretation and strife.” ‘He intimated that it was quite possible. ‘It is indicative of my spiritual turmoil and my blindness to His station, that instead of His serenity and tone of authority impressing me as warranted it drove me to actual impatience. “That I cannot believe,” I exclaimed. ‘I shall never forget the glance of outraged dignity the interpreter cast upon me. It was as though he would say: “Who are you to contradict or even to question ‘Abdu’l-Bahá?” ‘But not so did ‘Abdu’l-Bahá look at me. How I thank God that it was not! He looked at me a long moment before He spoke. His calm, beautiful eyes searched my soul with such love and understanding that all my momentary heat evaporated. He smiled as winningly as a lover smiles upon his beloved, and the arms of His spirit seemed to embrace me as He said softly that I should try my way and He would try his.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 65)
In His almost off-hand brushing aside of a cruelty, in the ineffable sweetness with which He ignored it, it was as though He said: Forgiveness belongs only to God. ‘An example of this was His memorable meeting with the royal prince, Zillah Sultan, brother of the Shah of Persia, Muhammad ‘Ali Shah. Not only ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but a great number of His followers, band after band of Bahá’í martyrs, had suffered worse than death at the hands of these two princes … One day Zillah Sultan came to him. In describing the scene later, the European said: “If you could have heard the wretch mumbling his miserable excuses!” But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the prince in His arms. “All that is of the past,” He answered. “Never think of it again. Send your two sons to see me. I want to meet your sons.” ‘They came, one at a time. Each spent a day with the Master. The first, though an immature boy, nevertheless showed Him great deference. The second, older and more sensitive, left the room of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, where he had been received alone, weeping uncontrollably. “If only I could be born again,” he said, “into any other family than mine.” ‘For not only had many Bahá’ís been martyred during his uncle’s reign (upwards of a hundred by his father’s instigation), and the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá threatened again and again, but his grandfather, Nasiri‘d-Din Shah, had ordered the execution of the Bab, as well as the torture and death of thousands of Bábís. ‘The young prince was “born again”—a Bahá’í.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 51)
In the 1970’s I met Inez Greeven. She went on Pilgrimage during the days of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in 1920 and again in 1921. She told me that during her Pilgrimage the Master asked her, “Where is your husband?” She said, “This was the one thing I did not want Him to ask me about. I answered, “Well, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he is not here."
"Yes, I can see that he is not here. Where is your husband?"
I told Him, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he left me for another woman."
"Yes, I know,” He replied. “And because you have forgiven him, God has forgiven him."
At the time, she was Inez Cook. She later met and married Max Greeven, a wonderful Bahá’í, of whom Shoghi Effendi thought highly. You can read about them in “Dear Co-Worker: Messages from Shoghi Effendi to the Benelux Countries”. You can also read about Inez’ first Pilgrimage here: http://bahai-storytelling.blogspot.com/2010/02/abdul-bahas-use-of-storytelling.html and http://bahai-storytelling.blogspot.com/2010/07/story-of-gate-of-garden-quote-from.html (Brent Poirier)