Letting the men stay didn’t cost me a cent, and there was a big fire to keep them warm and it meant much to them, poor fellows. I had the Board of Health get after me quite a few times, but I’d explain things to them, and they would go away saying, “You’re all right.” Big hard men said, “If people who want to do good would only get a place to house the poor unfortunates, there would be less crime and misery.” I knew that was true, and I’m praying for the day when we can have just such a place, and God is going to give it in His own good time.
I had won the boys, and I stayed in that Mission over six years and saw lots of men and women saved and living good lives. Many times well-dressed men will come into my place and say, “Mr. Ranney, don’t you know me?” and when I can’t place them they will tell me how I was the means of saving their lives by letting them stay in out of the cold, and giving them a cup of coffee and a piece of bread in the morning. I could count them by the hundreds. Praise His name!
One night just as the doors opened, there came into the Mission a woman who evidently had seen better days. She was one of the poor unfortunates of Chinatown. She asked if she might sit down, as she was very tired and did not feel well. “Go in, Anna,” I said, and she went in and took a seat. When I passed her way she said, “Mr. Ranney, will you please give me a drink of water?”
Now this woman had caused me lots of trouble. She would get drunk and carry on, but when sober she would be good and feel sorry. I gave her a cup of water and she said, “Thank you, Dan, and may God bless you!” An hour after that I gave her another cup, and she thanked me again, saying, “God bless you for your patience!” The next time I looked at her she had her head on the seat in front and I thought she was sleeping. Now I never wake any sleepers. I feel that an hour’s sleep will do them good, for when the Mission closes and they go out they have no place to sleep. They have to find a truck or a hallway or walk up and down the Bowery all night. I’ve been there, and it takes one that has been through the mill to sympathize with the “down-and-outs.” So I did not disturb this woman.
The meeting was over and the people were all out, when I noticed Anna still in the same position. I went over and called her, and receiving no answer shook her a little, but she never moved. I bent over and raised her head; a pair of sightless eyes seemed to look at me, and I knew she was dead. I never had such a start in my life. Two hours before alive—now dead! I learned that she was from a town in Connecticut, of good parents, who took her to her last resting-place in the family plot—a wayward girl who ran away from home. Her “God bless you, Dan!” still rings in my ears and her dead face I’ll never forget.
Here was a case that, so far as I knew, did not come under the influence of God’s Spirit, and I could only say, “God have mercy on her poor soul!” but there have been scores of other women whom I have been able to reach and help by the grace of God. I shall never forget the “white slave.”