(Photo: Screen Grab via NBC)
In February, Billy Ray Harris, 55, was a homeless man. Now, he has a new home, a car, and is getting ready to start his own painting business all because he chose to return a woman's $4,000 engagement ring she accidentally dropped in his change cup.
The woman, Sarah Darling, was simply trying to do good when she decided to drop some change in Harris' cup as he sat begging at his usual spot on a street in Kansas City, Mo., in February when she accidentally lost her ring in his cup.
Discovering the lost gem, Harris considered selling it but decided against it in the end, keeping the ring just in case he saw Darling again.
A few days later Darling showed up. She was so thankful Harris returned it to her she started a fund with her husband, Bill Krejci, to help Harris get back on his feet according to NBC's Today.
"We set a goal for a thousand dollars," Darling told TODAY in March. "We set it up because a lot of people who had been touched by the story expressed interest in helping Billy Ray."
But the public decided that Harris' gesture of honesty was worth much more than $1,000. By April 26, some 8,351 people had donated $191,745 to the fund to help Harris established on Give Forward.
"Billy Ray Harris, you are a shining light in this otherwise dark world. Peace on you...God Bless you and yours!!!" wrote Kath and Drew from New Jersey in a post after donating $500 to the fund.
According to TODAY, Harris then secured himself a lawyer who helped him place the donations in a trust, and since then he has been putting his life back together bit by bit.
He now has a car, has made a down payment on a modest home, which he is working to improve, and has been reunited with his once estranged family.
"When I think of the past, I think, thank God that it's over," he told TODAY. "I mean, I feel human now."
He explained that he still sees some of the people he used to beg for change from on the street but their reaction to him is completely different now.
"I still see some of the same people," he told TODAY, "but only now, instead of coming up and giving me change, they're coming up shaking my hand and, you know, saying 'hey, good job.'"
"This is what they call the American Dream," he added. "I want to thank all the people that helped me out. I want them to see where all their efforts, blessings and kindness is going."