A Story told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall (see link)
[I met this also for the first time as recounted in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in their Midst by Earl Redman – pages 269-270. This book has collected so many beautiful stories of this kind from so many different sources it is a treasure house of inspiration. Posting it during the Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s travels to the West, and on the Holy Day celebrating both the Declaration of the Báb, who foretold the coming of Bahá’u’lláh, and the birth of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Bahá’u’lláh and named by Him as the Centre of His Covenant with humanity, seems perfectly fitting.]
It was at the home of the Kinneys that Abdu’l-Baha 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-Baha’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-Baha 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 bacame ‘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.
Told to me by Edward Kinney
in New York 1937
[Sceptics might be put off by this story because of its element of the miraculous, but the true point does not depend upon that trigger. I feel that it is worth reflecting on because it is about how we can be enabled by any of life’s challenges at any time to step out of our customary skin and see ourself through the eyes of pure love and lift ourself up as a result to greater heights. But then I would say that, I suppose.]