An honest gesture has brought more riches to a Missouri homeless man's life than he could ever have imagined.
According to reports, Billy Ray Harris -- the panhandler who made headlines last month for returning a woman's engagement ring after she dropped it by accident into his change cup -- has not only been heaped with well-wishes and donations from supporters around the country, but he has also reunited with his long-estranged family.
Last month, the AP reported that tens of thousands of dollars had been donated by benefactors to help Harris get a new home. Earlier, Sarah Darling, the appreciative owner of the lost ring, and her husband Bill Krejci had set up a GiveForward fundraising page to raise money for the Kansas City man.
At press time, about 8,000 people have jointly donated more than $182,000 to Harris. There are still more than 60 days left in the campaign.
But this new chapter in the once-homeless man's life is richer for other reasons, too: Harris has been given the gift of family.
"When I turned my head, I recognized the name, and I turned back around and I looked at the picture again, and it was my brother," Harris' sister, Robin, told TODAY.com, referring to a news report she had seen about her sibling. "I called and I said, 'That's my brother. I've been looking for him for 16 years.'"
Robin, who lives in Texas, has since put Harris in touch with their other siblings and family members. She told TODAY.com that she had once been told that he was dead.
The family is planning to gather for a reunion over the summer.
According to blog posts on the GiveForward fundraising page, Harris is no longer living on the street and has been doing a bit of work as a roadie for a band. His sister has also helped him apply for a new identification card.
“I think in our world, we often just jump to the worst conclusion,” Darling told Kansas City news outlet KCTV in February, after her ring was returned by Harris. “It just makes you realize there are good people out there.”
Lots and lots of good people.