I have forgotten the past. I care not for the future. I am trying to live today as Christ would have me.
In relating these incidents of the past, my only desire is that someone may profit by my mistakes.
The Bible says: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man doweth, that shall he also reap.” Thoughts are like seed; they grow. A thought planted in your mind when you are young may be either your ruination or your making.
Up to the time was “of age” I never missed a service on Sunday. I had been taught that this was my religious duty. When I left school, I went to work as a surveyor on a reclamation job in the Mississippi Valley. Our camp was located near a town which was at the time wide open: gambling, dance halls, and saloons. On the days receding Lent, the mayor of the town proclaimed a holiday and the citizens gave what they called a “Mardi Gras” celebration. It was nothing more than a masquerade to give the citizens a chance to visit the slums.
I came to town about seven o’clock that evening. I did not wear a mask. I went into a saloon and had a couple of drinks, went upstairs and played a few hands of poker, and returned to the saloon. While I was standing at the bar a party of masqueraders entered. Three of this party came to the car and spoke to me. I recognized them–two girls and their brother. They asked me to show them the games. We went upstairs to the gambling hall and played the various games for about an hour.
We returned to the bar and were having a drink when someone struck me on the side of the head. I wheeled and at the same time clutched an empty beer bottle. A masked man made a lunge at me. I side-stepped and he lunged again. I struck him on the head with the beer bottle and he fell in a heap on the floor, striking his head on the rail.
My friends and I left the saloon as quickly as possible. The next morning a deputy sheriff served a warrant on me for manslaughter. This young man I had struck was the son of a prominent planter, and I, a stranger. I waived examination and was bound over to the grand jury. I hired a local lawyer, was tried and convicted. Immediately after this, I telegraphed my uncle, a prominent attorney in another state. My uncle appealed the case. The Supreme Court sent the case back for a new trial on a technical error. Two trials resulted in a hung jury. Finally the case was nolle processed.
As a result of this incident, I lost all my acquaintances. Even my school chums shunned me. I was ostracized from society.
As a compromise with my people, I entered a religious school. I spent two years in this school, and finally left after a misunderstanding with my instructors.
In 1907, the year of the panic, I was out of employment. I attended an unemployment meeting in Oakland, California. Every speaker at this meeting was a radical socialist or an atheist. This was the first time I had ever heard religion denounced from a public platform. My mind was in a receptive mood. I hated the public and I had lost faith in my religion; and by constant repetition of remarks I heard at this meeting I embittered myself against all religion, creeds, and denominations. I joined the Western Federation of Miners and the Socialist-Labor Party. I reconciled myself to fate.
For over twenty years following, I travelled from Canada to Chile, California to Maine, working on railroad and land surveys, in mines, playing minor league baseball and doing an acrobatic act with circus and vaudeville. Many good positions I left on account of my religious scruples.
When I came to the Mission seven years ago, I was ending a periodical spree. I had been drinking for eight months. I had left a good job, and spent somewhere around $2,500. I arrived in Washington on the front end of a passenger train with money in my pockets. I thought it was a crime to pay railroad fare. The same day, I went to work at the Mission.
I was leaving the building on a Sunday night as they were giving the invitation. Someone asked me to go forward (I had been drinking) and I went forward. I did not pray. In fact, I didn’t know what it was all about. I did manage to quit drinking for about three months. I wasn’t sincere.
Three of four days after Mr. and Mrs. Bennett returned from their vacation, Mrs. Bennett called me in her office. She handed me a tooth-brush and said, “I left that tooth-brush in that glass of alcohol two minutes.” I looked at the brush. The handle was dented, the bristles were loose, and, wherever the alcohol had touched, while had turned to purple. I said, “Well?” and Mrs. Bennett said “You can draw your own conclusions.”
That was the first time I ever realized what booze was doing to my interior. I went in to Mr. Bennett and told him I could not quit. He looked at me and said, “Murphy, what you need is a good dose of religion. Try prayer.”
I went forward the following Sunday night with a prayer on my lips, asking God to help me overcome the desire for booze. When I left the alter that night, I knew my prayer was answered. That was six years ago the first Sunday in September.
Two months later, I lost the use of my left hand. Before the holidays were over, I could not use my right hand. My feet lost their normal size. Up till last January, I’ve had someone assisting me in dressing and undressing. I never lost faith in God. I knew that in some way or somehow I would find a cure. I would work harder and I would try the impossible. And even through this long siege of physical torture, I have never used anything that contained narcotic or booze. As I’ve said before, the fact that I am alive tonight is a miracle, an answer to the prayer of the Christian people of this Mission.