The Spark of Hope
Winters can be cold, dark, and very lonely — especially for the homeless who are often left freezing out in sub-zero temperatures, without the solace of a warm meal and a cozy bed. While the privileged few gather our loved ones together for family meals in our toasty kitchens, singing songs of festive merriment, Christmas is often a very lonely and bleak prospect for millions of homeless
who can’t afford a square meal or a warm coat to keep the chill off their backs.
There are millions in America
and all over the world who have lost their jobs, families, or homes. One of these was Billy Ray Harris
, in his mid-50s, who occupied a quiet street corner in a neighborhood in Kansas City, asking passersby for a few coins to spare. One fine day in February 2013, Sarah Darling parted with a few coins and added these to Harris’ outstretched cup. Unbeknownst to her, she parted with more than she bargained for. Harris was now in possession of her engagement ring, which was worth $4,000, and was extremely tempted to sell it for hard cash. He got it appraised but just stopped short of the sale when his conscience told him otherwise. “I am no saint, but I am no devil either,” Harris said.
Appreciative of the honesty Harris had shown, Darling, together with her husband Bill Krejci, began a fundraiser aimed at helping Harris get a new lease of life. Darling was interviewed by TODAY in March 2013 and said, “We set a goal for a thousand dollars. We set it up because a lot of people who had been touched by the story expressed interest in helping Billy Ray.” The fundraiser was instantly a roaring success and ended up collecting far more than anticipated in a mere three months. With $190,000, Harris hired a lawyer who assisted him in depositing the funds in a trust. He soon was able to put a deposit on a house and buy himself a car. The $4,000 Ring That Changed a Homeless Man’s Life
By another stroke of sheer luck, all the media frenzy had attracted the attention of his long-lost family who had thought he was dead. They were able to find him after 16 long years and were happily reunited. Not only was he able to get off the streets, but he was also able to build a strong bond with his family, including nieces and nephews he formerly didn’t even know about, and vice versa!
“When I think of the past, I think, thank God that it’s over … I feel human now,” Harris told TODAY during his interview. He hasn’t forgotten his old lifestyle and the Kansas City community though. They still come up to him. However, it’s no longer to offer him their spare change but instead to congratulate him on making a better life for himself.
Another beautiful, lifelong friendship that has blossomed through all of this is the one between Harris and the Darling-Krejci family, which now includes a daughter. They go to games and spend good times together. Taking Harris to the Kansas City Royals games has brought the local baseball team several strokes of good luck! The six games Darling and Krejci have taken Harris to all ended in wins for the home team. When their daughter’s older, they’ve decided to tell her this amazing story that has touched all their lives.
Darling told TODAY, “I’ve talked to other mothers about this. It gives [other moms] a real tangible story of … the difference between what’s wrong and what’s right.” She went on to say she deeply appreciates the outpouring of kindness and support for Harris by the local community. “Overall, it just makes me feel good,” she smiled. “A lot of people came together to change this person’s life when he is someone who really deserves that.”
Harris is eternally grateful to the community and his good fortune. “[It’s] the American Dream,” he said. “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.”
At DonorWerx, we inspire and guide pastors and other leaders of nonprofit organizations to tell their story via an effective communication strategy. This helps them build their donor base with the structure of our easily navigable giving software. Get started today! with your personal stories designed to inspire a generous spirit and a kind heart.