In February 2013, a black homeless man had his life forever change when a kindhearted woman passed him by on a Kansas City street and left him spare change — but something of hers unexpectedly dropped into his cup.
Unbeknownst to Sarah Darling, the woman who left homeless man Billy Ray Harris spare change, she had also dropped her engagement ring into his cup, Today.com reports.
Harris, 55, considered selling the ring — he got it appraised at $4,000 — but listened to his conscience instead and decided not to go through with it. According to NBC News, he said his grandfather had raised him to be honest and wouldn’t approve of him taking the money.
Two days later, Sarah returned to where she had encountered Harris and, in a panic, asked about her ring, Little Things reports. Harris took the expensive ring from his pocket and gave it back to her.
“I am not trying to say that I am no saint, but I am no devil either,” he said at the time.
Soon after, Darling and her husband, Bill Krejci, started an online fund to raise money for Harris to help him get back on his feet.
“We set a goal for a thousand dollars,” Darling said in March 2013. “We set it up because a lot of people who had been touched by the story expressed interest in helping Billy Ray.”
The fund raised an incredible amount of money. Within three months, people had donated more than $190,000.
With the help of a lawyer, Harris put the money in a trust. Since then, he’s bought a car and a home, which he is fixing up himself.
Moreover, his long-estranged family members saw him on TV. After 16 years of separation, when several of his relatives thought he was dead, they tracked him down and reunited with him.
Harris is now building a relationship with them, including with nephews and nieces he hadn’t known existed.
“When I think of the past, I think, thank God that it’s over,” he said. “I mean, I feel human now.”
He still regularly connects with members of the Kansas City community.
“I still see some of the same people,” he said, “but only now, instead of coming up and giving me change, they’re coming up shaking my hand and, you know, saying ‘hey, good job.'”
“This is what they call the American Dream,” he says. “I want to thank all the people that helped me out. I want them to see where all their efforts, blessings and kindness is going.”
Furthermore, he’s become a fast friend of the couple whose ring he returned. Krejci and Darling now have a young daughter, and they look forward to explaining to her the role Harris played in her parents’ life.
“I’ve talked to other mothers about this,” Darling says. “It gives [other moms] a real tangible story of really teaching kind of the difference between what’s wrong and what’s right.”
“Overall, it just makes me feel good,” Darling said of the incredible support Harris has received. “A lot of people came together to change this person’s life when he is someone who really deserves that.”