During ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to America, one of the Baha'i friends who was staying in the same hotel as ‘Abdu'l-Baha, narrated this story:
I had a room in the same guest-house where Abdu'l-Baha was staying. Once, when I was looking out of my window, I saw Him pacing and dictating to His secretary. At that moment a poor man in shabby clothes passed the guest-house. No sooner had ‘Abdu'l-Baha seen him, than he sent his secretary to bring the man to Him.
‘Abdu'l-Baha stretched His arms out and welcomed him most warmly. The man was very poor and his clothes were very dirty. Nevertheless ‘Abdu'l-Baha turning His shining face to the man, talked to him for a long time, trying to make him happy. In the end the poor man smiled and his face beamed with pleasure.
Then ‘Abdu'l-Baha gave the man a searching look and said something I did not quite hear. It must have been something like "This man's clothes are old and shabby - we must do something!"
It was early in the morning and the street was still empty of people. ‘Abdu'l-Baha took off His cloak and gave the garment to the poor man saying, "God be with you." Then He returned to His secretary and continued dictating, as if nothing had happened.
I don't know what the man was thinking as he just continued on his way. But I think after seeing so much loving kindness, in ‘Abdu'l-Baha, and His generosity in giving him His own clothes, he must have been surprised and moved. He must have caught a glimpse of a world full of love and kindness, which was new to him.
During the years ‘Abdu'l-Baha was in prison, He thought always of others and not of Himself and would even offer His own bed to someone who had nowhere to sleep. And He was not happy to own two sets of clothing, knowing that some people had none.
So we can see that ‘Abdu'l-Baha always did just what He told others to do. He taught us to be kind to the poor, and this story shows how He did this Himself.
He was the great Exemplar who always remembered and acted on Baha'u'llah's holy words: "The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.” (Baha’u’llah)
(Adapted from ‘The Portals to Freedom”, by Howard Colby Ives; ‘Varqa Children Magazine’, vol. 1, no, 2, May-June 1981)