Homeless Man’s Selfless Deed Rewarded
Two months ago, a homeless man sitting on a sidewalk with his bicycle saw a bit of bling in his change cup. Curious, the 55-year-old, who had been panhandling “for the better part of a decade,” asked a local jeweler about the custom-made engagement ring. The jeweler offered him $4,000 for it.
He considered the offer, explaining later that “a little devil on [his] shoulder” said, “Take the money,” but he thought his grandfather would “turn over in his grave” if he did. “My grandfather was a reverend,” Harris said. “He raised me from the time I was six months old and thank the good Lord, it’s a blessing, but I do still have some character.”
So he kept the ring just in case the woman who had dropped it into his orange cup returned. A few days later, Sarah Darling knelt beside him to tell him she may have given him something valuable. When he told her he still had the ring, she was overjoyed. “It seemed like a miracle,” Darling said. “I thought for sure there was no way I would get it back.” She gave Harris all the cash she had in her wallet at the time.
Now Billy Ray Harris has new friends, including Darling, her husband Bill Krejci and 8,300-plus people who have donated more than $190,000 to an online fund the couple set up for Harris as a way to thank and honor him. The contributions, which are still pouring in, amount to 47.5 times more than what he would have received from the jeweler.
For Harris, that wasn’t even the biggest payoff. Billy’s youngest sister Robin, who lives nearly 500 miles away in Wichita Falls, Texas, saw Harris’ story online, and immediately knew it was the brother she had been searching for 16 years. Years before, he had moved to Kansas City, Missouri, painted houses, divorced and lost his job and his home. They both cried when they finally reconnected by phone. Harris’ four siblings had assumed their brother was dead.
What does the future hold for the soft-spoken man? He now has a home, a job and free financial and legal services. He plans to buy his sister Robin more space for a thrift store she runs in Texas. And recalling that he used to stand up and preach in church when he was 9 years old, he thinks maybe he’ll become a public speaker.
This week’s class will focus on the homeless – what stereotypes have you or others believed about homeless people that the story of Billy Ray Harris challenges?