One fine day a couple of months ago (as I write this), Billy Ray Harris, a homeless man in Kansas City, Missouri, was sitting in his usual spot panhandling passersby for small change. It seemed like a fairly usual day until he checked the contents of his cup.
That’s when he discovered that someone had dropped a ring into the cup—a ring that looked quite valuable.
He took it to a local jeweler, who offered him $4,000 on the spot. The diamond was real, and it was set in a platinum band. Harris considered taking the money. For him, $4,000 would be like hitting the jackpot! But as he said later, his grandfather had raised him to be honest. So he slipped the ring into his pocket and waited for its owner to return.
That owner was local resident Sarah Darling. And the ring was her engagement ring. However, it was uncomfortable on her finger so she had slipped it into the change pocket of her wallet. When she emptied her change into Harris’s cup, the ring went along unnoticed.
A day or two later Darling noticed that her ring was missing. She rushed back to Harris’s spot. Harris recounts that when he held up her ring, the look of joy and relief on her face was priceless.
A 5,000% return on kindness
One of Darling’s friends alerted a local Kansas City TV news station of the incident. The story quickly went viral. Hearing that people wanted to help Harris, Darling and her husband Bill Krejci set up a donation page, hoping to raise $4,000—the amount that the jeweler had offered Harris for the ring.
The fund has now received over $190,000 in donations, and it looks likely to hit the $200k mark before the 90 day donation period is over.
Let’s do the math. Harris could have gotten four thousand dollars for the ring. Instead, he decided to return it. As a result of this act of kindness, he will receive approximately two hundred thousand dollars. That’s a return of 5,000%!
Where can I get in on that investment opportunity!?!
All that excitement about a simple good deed?
Harris, however, isn’t sure what all the hubbub is about. When he gave back the ring, he considered that to be the end of it. He was “surprised and shocked” when it became such a media sensation. “If people are getting so excited,” he said, “because someone gave back something that didn’t belong to them, that kind of gives you an idea of what the world is coming to today.” He went on to say, “All I did was just give something back that wasn’t mine.”
He now views the incident as a teachable moment. He is giving talks here and there about being blessed by God all out of proportion to anything he had done, and about expanding our universe to include thinking about what good deeds we can do for each other.
Of course, Harris is appreciative of all the donations. Even before receiving them, he has found a place to live, gotten a part-time job, and has a luxurious air mattress to sleep on. He says, “It’s like living like a king compared to what I was.”
What has meant the most to him, though, is being reunited with his family. He had not seen his two younger sisters in over sixteen years. For their part, they weren’t even sure if he was still alive. Here’s the scene when they were reunited during a television interview:
A modern parable
As heartwarming as the tale of Billy Ray Harris is on the face of it, it takes on even greater meaning if we read it as we might read one of the parables of Jesus in the Gospels.
In the well-known “Parable of the Sower,” the seed sown on good soil produces crops of a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown (Matthew 13:8). And in the “Parable of the Ten Minas,” a servant who was given one mina (an amount of money equal to about three months of wages for a day laborer) and invested it well, earning ten minas in return, was put in charge of ten cities (Luke 19:16–17).
In these parables, the “return on investment” was worth many times the initial outlay, just as Billy Ray Harris is receiving many times the monetary value of the ring that he returned to its rightful owner.
What does this mean spiritually?
In being good, thoughtful, honest, and fair to our fellow human beings, we may think we are doing a small thing, not worthy of any consideration or reward. And in one sense we are right. That’s just what we as decent human beings are supposed to do.
And yet, the ultimate rewards of living and acting in that way are all out of proportion to those small deeds of kindness to others.
Yes, we may receive a monetary windfall as Harris did. However, most of us will not receive any large influx of cash for our good deeds.
What we will receive are even greater emotional and spiritual rewards. We will find ourselves blessed by “returns” of love, kindness, and warm human relationships that we never expected, just as Harris received a renewed relationship with his family after so many years of separation.
Love and kindness attracts more love and kindness. People want to show kindness to those whom they see doing an unselfish good deed.
Yes, many of the “returns” on our investment will be earned right here on earth.
God’s return on our investment
And yet, God has even greater returns in store for us when we begin our real lives in the spiritual world.
The master in the Parable of the Ten Minas tested his servants by giving them a small amount of money to invest, and seeing what they did with it. To those who used that money well, he gave huge rewards: governorship of whole cities!
Billy Ray Harris followed what his grandfather, a minister, had taught him as a young boy. Instead of cashing in the ring that was accidentally dropped into his cup, he returned it to its owner. In return, he is receiving blessings greater than he could have imagined!
In the very same way, God has given each one of us a small amount of spiritual wealth in the form of our knowledge, our love, our skills, and our capabilities. God is watching to see what we will do with those gifts. If we use them selfishly for our own benefit only, we close our heart to the great gifts God wishes to give us.
However, if we use these small gifts and capabilities that we possess to serve our fellow human beings and to show them understanding, love, and compassion, God is just waiting to give us greater spiritual “returns” on that small investment in kindness than we could ever imagine!
Because God has an infinitely generous and loving heart. God wants to give us blessings and joy until our cup is overflowing! All we have to do is open our heart so that we are able to receive those gifts. And we open our heart to God by opening our heart to others.
In the next article, we’ll look more specifically at the blessings God has in store for us when our labor in this world is finished, and we move on to the next world and become angels.