There’s a lot of construction in the Lloyd District. When I saw the guy’s reflective safety vest I assumed he had something to do with all that. As I got closer I saw the baton, and realized he was directing cars into the parking lot. Ah, yes. Someone said there was a Blazers game tonight.

I said hello and he returned my greeting with a smile. It was freezing outside. We were standing on the sidewalk and started to chat, which mostly amounted to me peppering him with questions. I can’t help myself. “How’d you end up the one out here in the freezing cold with the baton?” I asked him. “Well, I’m a lowly student,” he said, without a trace of bitterness. “My schedule isn’t as flexible as most. So, when I get work I take it.”

He was all smiles and upbeat good humor as he entertained my questions and signaled the occasional car into the lot with his baton. He said he was from Minnesota and has spent the last few winters in Portland. He’s studying Bible and psychology and said he wants to be a counselor. I quickly imagined his open-hearted kindness inspiring confidence in those needing help.


We talked about the weather (he’s getting used to it) and about the basketball team (he’s becoming a fan). He had seemingly endless patience for my nosiness and even had a few questions of his own. Eventually I got down to business and told him I thought he was a really nice man. And I had a gift I wanted to pay forward. To him.  “Are you okay with that?” I asked.

“I guess so. Depending on what it is!” He laughed as I passed over the C-note, then stopped short. “Just for nothing?” “Yup,” I said. “Just for nothing.” He gave me a good long look. “You’re kidding, right? This is for real? You’ve got to be kidding!” He shook his head, laughing, then stuck out his hand. “Wow, thank you so much! What’s your name?”

He told me his name was Ryan and I asked what he thought he might do with the money. “Can you keep a secret?” he asked me, with a sly smile. I told him I could, and I won’t divulge his top secret plan. I will just say this: you would love it.

I told Ryan a little about the blog and my reasons for giving money away. He thought it was all “amazing.” We shook hands before we said goodbye. “Thank you,” he said one last time.

I crossed the street toward my car and turned to wave. He waved back. On the way home I passed the corner and there he was: brandishing his baton and grinning at the cars going by. By the time I got home, it was pouring down rain. I could still see him in my mind’s eye, smiling and waving. Smiling and waving.

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15 Responses to Ryan’s Secret

  1. Amy says:

    Now I wonder what the secret is!!

  2. Staci Lynn says:

    I’m Ryan’s girlfriend and I wonder too! 🙂 Special thanks to Jill for blessing Ryan tonight. It made his evening!

  3. Amy says:

    LOVE it Dr.Jill

  4. Heather says:

    Oh maaannnnn!
    RYAN You gotta spill the beans! Please!

  5. Steph says:

    Initially I felt disappointed that I would not know the secret. Quickly that changed to an opportunity to dream of all the good things that could be done with the money. Now I don’t want to know the secret!

  6. Berta Kramlich says:

    It was wonderful to read about you in The Oregonian! I need to lose 20 pounds for my joints. Instead of T.O.P.S. or other method, I want to give a dollar per lost pound to the Food Bank–as my motivation. And I want to read your page every day.

  7. Deb says:

    ok, my eyes have big fat tears in them. another amazing story and act of kindness. Ryan seems like a fantastic guy – Staci, I think you’ve got a keeper here! :o)

  8. Pru McDonald says:

    It’s always a kick to here how you size people up for the “surprise”, but it’s even more lovely to see how much gratitude there is out there… in a world of so many who feel “entitled”, and project that sense! You’re doing great in picking them, Jill! Pru

  9. T.o. says:

    this is incredible.

    it may be random to you…but its so not random

    thank you for being you.

  10. Ginny says:

    I love reading about what you are doing and it always make me feel so good. You are a great person to do it.

  11. andrea gehrke says:

    I was having Jill Ginsberg withdrawals after missing a couple weeks of your wonderful stories (blog doesn’t give your writing colorful justice) and real, lovable characters. I like having several to catch up on at once, though. Maybe Ryan will share his secret one day. But who doesn’t love a mystery. Thank you dear Jill.

    • Jill Ginsberg says:

      Awww, that’s so sweet, Andrea. Thank you! I’m so happy to have you as a reader and I love that you enjoy these stories. Jill

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