Politics and all their bizarre characters and dubious machinations are bad enough but sometimes even every-day people mystify us with the inexplicability of their actions: heinous tweets about 9-year-olds, “wrist slaps” for drunks drivers who kill, teachers who use “dead slaves” to teach math, and bored, crazy kids who abuse the 911 system… just to name a few. But every once in while a story comes along that reminds us, even in the midst of madness, that really good people are out there doing really good things. Sometimes they’re major events we read about in every media source, sometimes they’re little moments of kindness that barely get noticed, but always they’re poignant reminders of the best of our breed.
This story is one of the little ones… a little one that ultimately grew into a much bigger one.
It starts with Sarah Darling of Kansas City, Missouri. A generous sort who liked giving when she could, Sarah happened upon a homeless man sitting with a collection cup in a city plaza and, in a moment of impulse, bent down, unzipped her wallet, and dumped all her change into his cup. It wasn’t a lot but it was what she had that morning and the man was happy to get it.
That man was Billy Ray Harris. One of the local Kansas City homeless, he often sat in this plaza to hopefully collect enough in his little cup to get him through the day. What he didn’t expect was what he found in his cup that particular day, happening on it about an hour after Sarah left and he checked to see his current take. In the tumble of coins… there was a ring. From KCTV 5 News:
“The ring was so big that I knew if it was real, it was expensive,” Harris said.
It was real. In fact, it was Sarah Darling’s engagement ring.
“My rings were bothering me, so I put them in my coin purse,” Sarah Darling explained.
Darling said she didn’t realize what she’d done until the next day.”I was so incredibly upset because, more than just the value of the ring, it had sentimental value,” she said. [Source]
The next day Sarah went back to the Plaza to find Billy Ray, not expecting to actually retrieve the ring but hoping against hope she’d at least get some information. Billy Ray, meanwhile, had a distinct feeling the ring was of significant value to the woman who’d given him all her change the day before.
“She squatted down like you did like right there and says ‘Do you remember me?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know. I see a lot of faces.’ She says, ‘I might have gave you something very valuable.’ I said, ‘Was it a ring?’ And she says, ‘Yeah.’ And I said ‘Well, I have it,'” Harris said.
“It seemed like a miracle. I thought for sure there was no way I would get it back,” Darling said. [Source]
Though he could have pawned it off and made a pretty penny for himself, Billy Ray was the kind of guy who knew right from wrong. He said he was raised by a grandfather who was a reverend and lessons learned young held steady, even as he got older and times got tough. And he thanked the Lord for leaving him with “some character”; he’s that kind of guy.
Sarah was stunned when he gave her back the ring. Like most of us, she’d grown somewhat cynical about human nature:
“I think in our world we often jump to like the worst conclusion, and it just makes you realize that there are good people out there,” Darling said. [Source]
Before she left Billy’s sitting there on the Plaza, a very grateful Sarah gave him all the cash in her wallet.
End of story? Not quite. Sarah’s husband, Bill Krejci, was so moved by that “character” Billy Ray had hung onto that he launched a Give Foward page for the homeless man. Give Forward is an online fundraising service set up particularly for those with a medical need. Krejci decided Billy’s homelessness fit enough of the “need” profile and created a page with the heading: “Billy Ray Harris is a great man who could use some help.” On the page he tells the story of Billy Ray returning his wife’s wedding ring and makes a request to donate funds. From NPR:
As of mid-morning Tuesday, close to $152,000 had been pledged. Krejci wrote over the weekend that he had spoken with Harris “about what he’s planning to do with the donations. The details would be better left for later but know that he has a very solid plan and a very solid way of making it happen.”
That sounds like a good start. A good start for a good man who held on to “some character.” Giving us an all too rare, but very good, news story for the day.
[To access Billy Ray’s Give Forward page, click here.]