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

Homeless man who returned an engagement ring dropped into his cup reunited with family

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.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in