Billy Ray Harris, a 55-year-old homeless man from Kansas City, Mo., is getting national media attention — and possibly a new home — for an act of honesty inspired by the lessons taught by his reverend grandfather.
Last Friday, Harris was collecting spare change from passersby in his normal spot in a part of Kansas City called The Plaza. Sarah Darling happened upon Harris and emptied the spare change from her purse into his cup. Darling didn't realize until much later that among the coins was her platinum-and-diamond engagement ring that she had taken off because it had been irritating her finger.
When Harris packed up for the day, he realized that his cup contained an unusual bonus. At first, he thought the ring had to be fake. But he took it to a local jeweler, who confirmed that it was, indeed, very real.
"The jeweler was willing to give me $4,000 on the spot," Harris told NBC’s Today Show. "But I just couldn't do it."
Harris explained to the reporter that his grandfather raised him to be honest. He knew in his heart he couldn’t take the money.
"My grandfather was a reverend. He raised me from the time I was 6 months old and thank the good Lord, it's a blessing, but I do still have some character," he said. “I am not trying to say that I am a saint, but I am no devil either.”
So he held on to the ring and returned to his regular spot at The Plaza the next day. Darling realized on Saturday that her ring was gone and remembered that she had placed it in her change purse. She raced back to The Plaza to find Harris, and there he was — with her ring.
Darling said the moment was like a "miracle," and she rewarded Harris with all the cash she had on her.
Harris became an instant celebrity as his story went viral. Well-wishers visited Harris and brought him meals. More importantly, ABC's Las Vegas affiliate KTNV is reporting that Harris' story reached his estranged sister in Texas. They hadn't seen each other in 20 years, but she has offered him a place to stay. Harris is considering the offer.