Sometimes, stories of beautiful acts of kindness blindside us and yank on our heartstrings to the point where we can barely hold back tears. Often, the people involved in these touching tales defy expectations and shatter misconceptions. Such is with the story of Sarah Darling, a Missouri woman, and her life-changing encounter with a Kansas City homeless man.
One day, as she was walking down the street, Sarah generously offered a small donation to an impoverished panhandler. After the encounter, to her horror, she realized that her engagement ring was no longer on her finger. She immediately went back to confront the homeless man and look for her ring. When she found him, she realized that the encounter would change both of their lives forever.
We All Make Mistakes
Sarah Darling owns a yoga studio and is a fitness enthusiast. What started off as a normal day quickly became a landmark in her life. Before this story happened, she had recently gotten married. So one day, as she was walking down the street, she saw the homeless man (whom she often sees) and decided to give him a little bit of money. She put some cash in his cup and continued about her day.
As it happens, she had also recently injured her finger and was forced to stop wearing her ring so she could heal properly. After giving the man a donation, and continuing about her day, she soon realized, to her horror, that her engagement ring was gone!
Retracing the Steps
Shortly after arriving home, she dug into her purse to get the ring. That is the moment she realized it was gone. Her heart sank. In a later interview, she recounted, “it was horrible. It was such a feeling of loss. It meant so much to me beyond just the financial value.”
Although severely distraught, she didn’t despair. She thought hard and tried to retrace her steps. In her mind, she reconstructed the last few hours and days of her life and then realized that she opened her purse when she got the change out for the homeless man earlier that day. She decided to rush back to the scene and try to retrieve her ring.
Reconstructing the Timeline
After thinking about it very carefully, Sarah determined that chances are that she lost the ring sometime earlier that day when she was out and carrying her purse. She didn’t even want to think about the depressing possibility that it could have just fallen out of her purse somehow and been picked up by someone on the street.
After narrowing down the possibilities, Sarah realized that there was a small chance that her ring fell into the homeless man’s cup. At this point, she concluded that her chances of getting the ring back were vanishingly small. But she decided to go back to him and see what happens, but she couldn’t find him.
One Last Try
After going back to his usual spot and realizing that the homeless man was nowhere to be found, despair and hopelessness started to set in. At this point, she had begun to come to terms with the situation. Just as she started to accept the sad loss, her husband, Bill, urged her to have one last look for the homeless man. The following day, Sarah returned. To her surprise, the homeless man was there.
“I don’t know if you remember me, but I think I gave you something that’s very precious to me,” Sarah told him as she approached. As she stood there with her fingers twisted, the man responded, “Was it a ring? Yeah, I have it, I kept it for you.” Sarah says that at that moment, she entered a state of skeptical disbelief.
After Sarah got over her initial sense of disbelief, a different sensation started to sink in: the warm feeling that a miracle had just happened. She couldn’t believe it. Most people in this mans position would have just pawned the ring off as soon as they had the chance. But not this man. Despite his tough circumstances, he held on to it in hopes that the owner would come back.
During the encounter, as tears formed in her eyes, she could barely even find the words with which to thank the man. She just couldn’t believe that he had actually held on to it. He gave her back the ring and she offered as heartfelt a thanks as she could muster up while holding back tears.
The Man Behind the Miracle
Let’s meet the amazing man who returned Sarah Darling’s ring. His name is Billy Ray Harris. For many years, he has been panhandling on a street corner of Kansas City. His life was incredibly difficult, as he had no money and had been living outside without proper facilities for a long time.
At the time of this touching story, it had been about 16 years since Billy had had contact with his family. Following misfortunes, one after the other, Billy ended up on the street. On the day that he looked into his cup and saw the engagement ring, and in light of his tough circumstances, he was conflicted about what to do. He considered keeping the ring, and he even had it appraised at a local jeweler.
Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Always Easy
When he took the ring to the jeweler, he was told that he could get $4000 for it. For homeless folks like Billy, that’s a small fortune. Getting that money meant that he could have eaten well for a while and even afford some shelter. He admits that he strongly considered taking the money on the spot. Putting ourselves into his shoes isn’t easy, but somehow, as fellow human beings, we understand why it was a tough choice.
It was a tough decision, but after some deliberation, Billy concluded that for whoever lost the ring, its value probably went beyond cash value. It most likely also had a ton of sentimental worth. So Billy decided to wait and see if someone ended up coming back for it.
Goodness of Heart
Billy left the pawnshop after having turned down the $4000, ring in hand. He went back to his street corner and had the ring safely tucked into his pocket. Sure enough, and to his great surprise, a couple of days later Sarah came back. During the encounter, Harris took out the ring and handed it back to Sarah.
When later asked about his decision not to sell the ring, he said, “I just couldn’t do it. I’m not saying I’m an angel, but I’m not a devil either.” Sarah accepted back the ring and expressed her heartfelt gratitude. Billy later said in an interview, “I could tell exactly how much it meant to you as soon as I held it up.” Sarah reflected on the situation and said, “it just makes you realize there are good people out there.”
Reflecting on Unexpected Kindness
During the days after the encounter, Sarah (and her husband at this point) could still not believe what had transpired. It just defied logic. Billy was homeless, often not having enough to eat, and rarely having a safe place to sleep at night. Yet despite all of that, he still put Sarah first. The couple was stunned with how honest and genuine he was.
They concluded that these were crazy circumstances and that they needed to somehow repay Billy. Despite a hard situation, Billy had shown an insane amount of compassion toward Sarah. She and her husband wanted to return the favor. She recalled, “It was just such a feeling of loss when it was gone, so I am so eternally grateful for him.”
Returning the Favor
To repay Billy’s act of kindness, Sarah and her husband, Bill, decided to set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising $1000 to purchase him a gift. He certainly deserved it. Also, Billy’s kindness struck such a deep chord within their hearts that the Darlings wanted to show the world how genuine this man was.
They took to the internet to spread the word of the magical gesture. The internet’s response was overwhelming! People from all over the country started to share the story and express their gratitude, and the GoFundMe page was a huge success.
Donations Pouring In
When Sarah and Bill fired up the GoFundMe campaign, they hoped to raise $1000 that would provide Billy Ray Harris with some nice warm meals, and some new clothes and supplies. What happened, though, was completely unexpected.
Sarah told an interview, “We set it up because a lot of people that were touched by this story expressed interest in helping Billy Ray. We set the goal for $1000 and were hoping to achieve maybe $4000 because that is what he was offered on the spot for the ring.” But as word of Billy’s kindness spread, the donations continued to pour in.
As the money for Billy kept coming in and the story continued to spread like wildfire, Sarah and Bill realized something big was happening. There was just something so heartwarming and amazing about the whole story. People couldn’t believe it. It soon made national headlines!
So, Sarah and Billy’s goal was to raise $1000. Though in private they hoped that they could raise $4000 in order to match the price offered to Billy for the ring. Get this. Within a short three months, the donations reached a whopping $190,000!
The World’s Warm Words
In addition to contributing to the donation campaign for Billy following his sweet and amazingly kind act, people from around the globe also bestowed tons of praise and warm words on him. A contributor from England wrote, “In life what goes around comes around Billy-your sweet actions, despite in being dire straits yourself, prove that there is humility in the world. You are one shining example. Lots of love from across the pond.”
And the sweet words and dollars just kept coming in. Another contributor to the campaign shared a similar story: “Several years ago, my mother’s ring was stolen from my house. To this day, I recall the empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. Hopefully, your honest example will encourage others to pay it forward. Kudos to you, Billy Ray.”
Kindness and Humility
Then came the time for Sarah and Bill to approach Billy and tell him the news. Imagine how the couple felt at this point. It must have felt awesome. Billy has no clue that the story was so big and that so many people had heard about and commented on his good deed. And when they hit him with the news, he couldn’t grasp the full implications at first.
He expressed happiness at the whole situation, but he stated that on some level it surprises him that a little good deed gets so much attention: “What I actually feel like, what has the world come to when someone returns something that doesn’t belong to him, and all this happens?” He continued, “I like it, but I don’t think I deserve it.”
Kansas City Hero
In his hometown, Kansas City, Billy Ray Harris became a local hero. Praise and gratitude from the community continued to come in. He commented on the change he felt when people approached him, “I still see some of the same people,” Billy said, “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.'”
Billy’s story makes us believe in karma. Or at least, he proved to us that good deeds beget good fortune. Had he sold the ring, he would have bought himself some much-needed but short-lived comforts. But he wouldn’t have made someone else happy. His act of kind selflessness, though, resulted in him having enough resources to get off the street and turn his life around.
Getting a Fresh Start
Following Sarah and Billy’s immensely successful campaign, Billy Ray Davis was given the best opportunity ever: a fresh start. You can’t even put a price on that. For years he had been on the street, so now that he had this opportunity, he was determined to use his money wisely. After consulting a lawyer, he decided to lock most of his money in a trust.
$190,000 is no small sum. He decided to use some of it to buy himself a car, and he even had enough to put a down payment on his own home – something he had been scraping by without for years. The house was a small, cute fixer-upper. This was great, but little did Billy know, some of the best gifts were still to come.
The Greatest Gift of All
Because he returned the ring, Billy Ray Harris became a community hero, the donations enabled him to buy a house, a car, and start completely fresh. But even his money and his fresh start could not compare with the indescribably happy gift of being able to reunite with his family.
When you end up on the street, you also start losing contact with your loved ones. So Billy’s family had heard and been under the impression that he passed away. When they saw him on TV, they were shocked, relieved, and thrilled. They made contact and moved to set up a reunion.
While Billy was on the streets, his youngest sister, Robin, lived 500 miles away, in Wichita Falls, Texas. She spoke about looking him up and finding out with relief that he was alive and well: “I got on the computer one morning and I knew it was my brother as soon as I saw the picture.”
When she gave him a call, the conversation was tearful. She recounted, “We cried on the phone and talked about how happy we were that we found each other because he said he was worried about me too. He had been gone so long.”
Plans for Reuniting
Billy was overjoyed when he found out about the donations, but this happiness was outshined by the warmth felt by reconnecting with his sister, Robin. He said, “I’m glad that we all got in touch with each other. I was really worried about them and they were worried about me, and there were so many stories going around in Texas that I was dead or in Arkansas and nobody knew anything.”
For a long time, Robin had been searching for her brother. She even frequented Craigslist. After the reconnection, Billy and his family started speaking daily and making plans, “We are actually talking about having a family reunion. I can’t wait, I got happy feet.”
Telling the Incredible Story, and Waiting for a Surprise
NBC News had been closely following and reporting on the story. When they heard that Billy had reconnected with his family, the network decided to invite Billy, Sarah, and Bill to a talk show to speak of their surprising experiences. Viewers tuned in from across the country.
As the three told their story, the praised Billy’s kindness and recounted the overwhelming support that he got from the community. What Billy didn’t know, though, was that his family (whom he planned on soon reuniting with) was backstage.
The Big Moment
After Billy, Sarah, and Bill recounted the touching tale, the NBC host turned to Billy and revealed that his family (whom he hadn’t seen in 16 years!) was waiting backstage and would be joining them. Billy couldn’t believe it. And not only was it his sister, Robin, that came out. Also joining the show was his brother, Edwin, and his two other sisters, Nellie and EJ.
As his siblings walked onto the stage and the family members embraced each other, everyone had to fight as hard as they could to fight back the tears. Billy could barely find the right words to express himself. “This is a really big surprise, I’m in shock,” he managed to say.
Finding out He’s an Uncle to Many
In recounting how happy and relieved she was to reunite with her long-lost brother, Nellie said, “We had been wondering for years, where is he at? Is he alive?” As tears rolled down her face, she said that she couldn’t even describe the emotions involved in finding out the happy news.
As the tears streamed and the family started to reconnect, Billy was informed that he was also the uncle to nieces and nephews. His family told him that they were all anxiously waiting to meet him, and had been closely following the developments as they found out that he was still alive and well.
Kindness Leads to Amazing Things
Reuniting with his family with whom he had not seen in over a decade was clearly affecting him deeply. With a smile on his face throughout the segment, Billy’s said: “I would never have thought this would happen, I am in complete shock, showing his emotional state, sitting with his arm around Robin.”
It just goes to show what one act of kindness and honesty can do. Thanks to Billy’s honesty, he now has a completely new life. He is no longer homeless, living in his own house, and has reunited with his long-lost family with plans to stay closely in touch and be a part of their lives.
Expressing Deep Gratitude
“I want to thank all the people that helped me out I want them to see where all their efforts, blessing and kindness is going,” said Billy as he expressed reciprocal gratitude at all the love and support his received. He continued, ” “Overall, it just makes me feel good.”
And let’s not forget about the couple who started the campaign following the return of the engagement ring. Sarah Darling said, “A lot of people came together to change this person’s life when he is someone who really deserves that.” Sarah’s husband, Bill, expressed his appreciation again, and said, “He’s just a solid guy, and you can tell he’s probably going to make it out alright.”
Another Friendship Takes Form
Due to one small (but huge) act of kindness, Billy’s got a fresh start and a new life. He got some money, bought a little house and a car, reunited with his long-lost family, and became a hero. But he also formed a deep friendship with the couple that started it all. They all have great chemistry and went on to become friends.
All three of them (especially Billy) went through a life-changing, transformative experience together. After the whole story, Bill and Sarah started to meet up with Bill every day. They say they are always going to be in touch, and have plans to remain life-long friends.
Did Someone Say Bromance?
As it turns out, Bill’s and Billy’s interests go beyond the connection they formed during this incredible story. They also both have a passion for sports. Since they became friends, they have been going to hockey matches and basketball games together.
“I knew immediately that he was someone that was on the same wavelength as me, and I was looking forward to being able to go chat with him…” said Bill in an interview with NBC. He says they just clicked and it was awesome And they have been buds ever since their bond took shape.
Taking in the Situation
Early in this incredible story, when the donations really started to pour in, Bill and Sarah went to tell Billy the news. After he got over his initial shock, Bill offered to accompany Billy to the repair shop to get his bicycle fixed. That’s when the two really started to hit it off.
Still in some shock and awe, after the repair shop, Bill and Billy decided that they needed to go sit down somewhere and discuss the unbelievable situation. The ended up sitting for hours and hours, solidifying their bond.
The Ring as an Heirloom
During the NBC talk show, Bill and Billy also recounted their trip to the repair shop and their subsequent time spent together reflecting on the situation. Bill said, “We talked about a lot of things related to my family’s ring and the many donations. We talked about one day in the future the ring may one day be passed down to my daughter.”
For Billy, this drove home how important (beyond the monetary value) the ring was to Sarah and Bill. They planned on passing it down to their daughter, so it also had a deeper, sentimental value to them. If it weren’t for Billy, the future heirloom would have been lost.
The Friendship Continues to Thrive
Bill and Sarah realized that with this whole story, there’s a great deal of luck involved. And after it concluded, and Billy started his new life after being reunited with his family, the luck didn’t stop. Bill and Billy both love sports, and he has accompanied the couple to lots of games. Interestingly, every time they brought Billy to a baseball game, the Kansas City team won!
And their friendship went beyond the story with the ring and the sports games – they even attended each other’s family events and met each other’s families. It’s really nice to see that this unbelievable story winds down with a continuation of Bill, Sarah, and Billy’s friendship.
A Life Lesson in Compassion
Now, Sarah and Bill have two children. Their daughter is their oldest, and they also have a little boy. Now, a few years down the line, the kiddos are getting bigger. Of course, the story will Billy and the ring are a significant part of Sarah and Bill’s lives, and they tell their children about Billy’s good deed and the importance of kindness.
Sarah says that there’s a really important life lesson to be learned from the story of the ring. She explained, “It gives other moms a real tangible story of really teaching kind of the difference between what’s wrong and what’s right.”