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Free Money On Bowery

Free Money On Bowery
The New York Tribune
April 20, 1912
New York

Abdu’l-Bahá Visits Mission and Distributes Quarters.


News Spread Rapidly, but the Persian Prophet Has to Disappoint Many.

An incident that might have been immortalized by O. Henry, were he still alive, occurred on the East Side last night, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas, the Persian prophet, attired in the flowing robes of the Far East, visited the Bowery Mission. “Bagdad-on-the-Subway,” as O. Henry often called New York, has been the scene of countless incidents that might be woven into tales as fascinating as those related to Haroun-al-Raschid, and many of them have been enacted on the Bowery.

Until last night, however, probably none have bore so much flavor of the original Arabian Nights. For did not the “good Caliph” appear in person and greet the four hundred or more men who filled to overflowing the capacity of the mission hall to hear him preach, and did he not reward each of them with a memento of himself that brought joy to the heart of more than a few of those who through the efforts of the Bowery Mission have become rich in faith, if they are poor in material wealth?

Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas is a philosopher and teacher of a Christian doctrine that embraces world-wide unity and love. Since his arrival here, a few days ago, he has preached at a number of fashionable churches and last night his desire to see the “other side” at worship led him to visit the Bowery Mission. His coming had been arranged for and when the evening service was well begun he entered a door at the rear and marched with dignified step to the platform.

There was a craning of necks as the venerable old man, his brown face and snow-white beard and hair, topped by a white fez, proceeded down the aisle. The same interest was apparent later when he arose to address the gathering in his native language, telling them, as his interpreter, Dr. Ameen Fareed, who is his nephew, explained, that because they were poor they should be thankful, because Jesus had said, “Blessed are the poor,” while the rich had never been so recommended.

At the end of his address ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said he would like to meet each man as he passed out of the building. He said he had a token for them. Again the eyes of all followed him as he passed down the aisle and took a station near the door, carrying a mysterious looking bag in his hand.

As each man passed the prophet he was allowed to grasp his hand and as he withdrew it in his palm lay a bright silver quarter.

Four hundred men were in the hall, and there was a gift for all. After the last one had gone and the empty bag remained ‘Abdu’l-Bahá congratulated the leaders of the mission and expressed his pleasure at having been able to be there.

Outside, on the Bowery, the news that there was “a guy givin’ away quarters at the mission” spread like wildfire. A crowd soon collected outside of the iron latticework that protects the door, but $100 in 25 cent pieces was all the change the good prophet happened to have about him.