Hitting the outdoors is the start of a good time for most people. For Billy Ray Harris, the outdoors are the only place to call his own. This strong willed homeless man has always found a way to tough it through the bitter cold winters and hot summers. Aside from sorting through trash or searching the streets for valuables, he occasionally sets out his cup to collect. What he would find in there this time could potentially change his life forever.
With his head down, back against his bike, and bottom on the sidewalk, Ray patiently awaited an offering from a by passer. At the sound of change hitting the empty cup, he raised his eyes to see a generous lady, “God bless you.” he said with a dry tired voice. In return he received a kind smile and nod as the woman carried on. Ray swirls the cup a bit as he glances inside. Something much more valuable than coin was laying amongst spare change, a diamond ring! “She must have dropped it in here by mistake.” He thinks to himself in utter shock. By that time, she was already gone.
Ray heads to the nearest jewelry store to get a price, “Four thousand dollars my friend, right now cash money.” blurts the man at the counter. “Well first I want to see what others will offer me for it, but thank you.” He added as he leaves the shop, ring in hand. With hardly a dollar to his name and an opportunity to make thousands in an instant, what should he do?
He doesn’t visit any other shops for pricing, he already knows all he needs to. Holding the most valuable thing he had possessed in many years, Ray now had a quick way to cash in. Although it isn’t his and may have been given to him by complete accident, he can do with it as he pleases. Above being homeless, poor and hungry… he unselfishly decides to be heroic. Assuming the lady would be back, he goes to the same place he sat earlier and waits.
Harris got back on the daily grind of fighting off the hunger pains. On Feb.10, after two days of keeping the ring safe, she returned. He stops the lady and presents the ring, “I think this belongs to you.” With disbelief and joy surging through her being, she gave him a strong loving hug and a thank you. She then shared with him her friendship and her name, Sarah Darling. After finding the ring, her only concern was the fear of not being able to ever repay the man. What could add up to the thousands of dollars he returned, and how could she repay his honesty that reached to the heavens.
To Rays surprise, Darling and her husband Bill set up an online “Fund for Harris.” They hoped to raise the $4,000 he had been offered by the jeweler. The tale of the “55-year-old homeless man who returned the diamond ring” really began to circulate. As word spread, so did generosity. KTNV-TV reported that complete strangers have sought Harris out to congratulate him and give offerings. Saying this was only the beginning doesn’t quite cut it.
Donations came pouring in from around the United States, as well as Germany, Sweden, Australia, Ireland and more. “It is good to know honesty still exists despite one’s circumstances which Mr. Harris exemplifies!” wrote one poster who donated $25. Another who gave $100 added: “People from all over the world salute.” The fund has gained upwards of $186,000 from 8,000-plus donors. The happy ending only keeps getting happier. The homeless man who gained notice on the Web now has a home and also a part-time job. More than money, Harris received the priceless gift of being reunited with his long lost family who had searched for him for over 16 years.
He was in shock when his siblings were brought out by surprise during an interview on the ‘Today’ show. He himself seemed to be amused by the outpouring, “What I actually feel like is, what has this world come to when a person returns something that don’t belong to them and all of this happens.” Harris and his new friends ‘the Darling family’ discussed the journey of the rings past, and what the future holds for this piece of jewelry. Speaking of how it may one day be passed down to their daughter for her special day. This Darling family air loom will forever have a touching story attached to it, starring Ray Harris!