Luck changes for Billy Ray Harris, the homeless man who returned an engagement ring dropped into his beggar's cup
Couple’s online fund to raise the $4,000 Harris turned down now stands at $185,000
The luck changed for Billy Ray Harris one day last month when the usual tinkling of coins being dropped into his beggar’s cup on a plaza in Kansas City was punctuated by a slightly heavier clunk. A few minutes later he looked inside and spied a woman’s engagement ring with a tidy-looking rock.
The first thought of a man begging to survive might have been to run to the nearest jewellery shop. And that is what Mr Harris did. But when he was offered $4,000 (£2,600), a better instinct took charge. He kept it in case the owner came back.
Thus began an urban fable that has captured the hearts of America. Whatever impelled Mr Harris to turn down the cash – he has attributed it to the pastor grandfather who raised him – he has been repaid. Six weeks later he has been reunited with long-lost siblings, he has a home, a job, and enough money to retire from begging.
The ring’s owner returned two mornings later – Sarah Darling said she may have dropped something valuable into his cup. Mr Harris related the moment in an appearance on NBC’s breakfast show, Today: “‘Was it a ring?’” he recalled asking her. “And she says, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Well, I have it.’”
Ms Darling decided with her husband to set up an online fund to try to raise the $4,000 that Mr Harris, 55, had turned down. By yesterday, it had reached $185,000 and was still growing. In the meantime, a sister, Robin Harris Williams, with whom he had lost touch, heard the story on the news and realised Mr Harris was her brother.
It was on the NBC set that Mr Harris was finally reunited on Sunday with Robin and two other sisters, Nellie and Elsie, after 16 years apart. “I’m in shock,” Mr Harris said. And he knows he made the right decision at the jewellery shop. “This is a big payoff,” said a smiling Mr Harris, surrounded by his family. “Got it all right here now.” He also has a roof over his head and an air mattress. “It’s like living like a king compared to where I was.”
Ms Darling, who started the fairy tale when she reached into her purse that day in February for coins, forgetting that amongst them was her diamond ring, said: “It seemed like a miracle. I thought for sure there was no way I would get it back.”
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...