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My mother, Karen Greenameyer was the second of 4 children born to my grandparents, Edward and Gale. Edward started his family in Leetonia, Ohio, a small town that was once a thriving suburb of steel towns close by. Edward was the cornerstone of Leetonia. Starting off as a lawyer and becoming the judge of the local court, he lead by example, offering his services to this small community through volunteer work. He made it his mandate to do 20 hours each week, or more, of volunteer community service. Meanwhile, he had four children, starting with Jacky, then my mom Karen, then Susie, then Bobbie as they were known to me growing up. My mom, Karen, died of cancer when I was 18, too young to truly appreciate the quality of her character while she was alive. Bobbie lives in California and I only see him once every few years at the best, and Susie, living in Columbiana, Ohio is the closest in personality to my mom and still cries every-time I see her, and tells me how proud my mom would be of me if she was still alive. Susie keeps the memory of my mom closer to the surface than anyone else. The eldest of the Greenameyer kids, I get to see the most often, living in Washington, DC, where many of my cousins (all of her kids, plus the oldest of Susie’s kids, Steven) live. This is about Jackie.

Jackie is not a bragger, nor does she ever use the things she does for others as a way to look better in the eyes of others, she does what she does as a promise to her dad, my grandfather (deceased since the 1970’s) and out of her own conviction. In fact I only found out just how much she does for others during our last family dinner at her son Mark’s house during the Potomac Festival.

Jackie commits 20 hours per week, every week to doing volunteer community service, just as her father did and asked her to do. Do the math for starters. She is 70 years old this year, and has been doing this since she was a teenager. Let’s say 50 years X 52 weeks x 20 hours= that is 26 years of full time work so far, and she is just getting started. 26 years would qualify her for a pension and retirement from the Army, or other government job. Was this a luxury that a non-working woman took advantage of? No! She was also employed during this entire time! She was the #1 selling real estate agent in the USA for her company during part of that period, and still is a top selling agent in the Maryland area outside of DC.

So, what kind of work are we talking about? Whatever looked like it needed fixing, or whatever social injustice caught her fancy, she got involved and didn’t stop until she effected a positive change.

Things I know about that she has done:

Access for the handicapped. Her son Kirk, the cousin I am closest too and spent the most time with (he was an awesome kayaker) became paralyzed in a biking accident (during a road race) and is confined to a wheelchair (quad). Jackie fought housing discrimination problems where Kirk had issues getting an apartment, for example, not for Kirk, but to make sure that nobody had this issue again. She organized public transportation for the handicapped, where somebody who can’t get to a grocery store, a park, or whatever, can call up the day before, schedule a pick-up with a handicapped accessible van and get dropped off and then taken back home. This service is not free, but affordable to the individual.

Sometimes I was the subject of Aunt Jackie’s social injustice community work and didn’t even know it until I was in the middle of things. Jackie is as much of a women’s liberator as a women gets, but not against men, just for equal rights. One day Aunt Jackie invited me to the movies to see a matinee’. I was 20 years old and going to the University of Maryland for engineering (1984). We show up to the theater and there were only women going into it and a sign that said “ladies only day”. Aunt Jackie took me to see if they would let me in, since that was discrimination against men, and she wouldn’t stand for that, period. Well, they laughed at me for coming to the ladies day, and unfortunately for me, they weren’t playing Terminator, which had just come out, but I got to watch a movie with my Aunt and a bunch of other ladies at a ladies only discount.

So Jackie turned 70 this year and when most people are thinking about retiring, she is just getting started! Aunt Jackie feels that she could effect more change, with her knowledge, persistence, and simple elbow grease if she were an official part of the law system. She is currently applying for law school and intends to become a lawyer. It isn’t for the money, she may or may not charge for her services, I don’t know, but it is because she knows she could do more if she didn’t have to rely on other lawyers to fight for what she knows is right in her neighborhood. Kudos to my Aunt Jackie, a living example of someone that goes to be every night knowing that she has “made the world a better place”.

I don’t share the same interests as my Aunt Jackie in what I feel is worthy of my time and energy and am glad that there are people who are interested in the things she is and will spend their time making important changes to our society on behalf of those who can’t do it themselves. I can only hope that when I am 70 years old I am still doing what I can for the world that I care about.

Some quotes that I have written down that remind me about the importance of public service:

“The true slogan about true democracy is not, “let the government do it”, but rather “let’s do it ourselves”… This is the spirit of people dedicated to helping themselves, and one another.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for someone else.” Charles Dickens

“We make a living by what we get; We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

I have found that any act of service to others by doing what you can at the moment, without hesitation, creates a rush of blood to the face and body, that warms the soul like a dip in a hot bath, bringing a moment of clarity to the real reason for your existence; to make the world a better place for others. It always seems to backfire however, with kindness returned two fold, filling your bank of generosity back up even higher than before. It is a cycle that is hard to break once it gets started, and you realize that you are never too poor to be the one helping others. I believe it goes both ways, with no middle ground. The old saying, “you are either growing or dying.” A wrongful thing done, brings some mental anguish along with it, that sucks a little life out of you, lowering your energy level, giving you a cold feeling that forces you to defend what you have left in you, making you even less apt to give yourself away in a positive way, until you don’t have people backing you up anymore, and can’t back yourself up. Life gives you only what you give it. It starts with a smile on your face at all costs; a smile is the candle in the window, letting others know that there is a caring person inside. It ends with a connection with a handshake or hug and an eye contact that creates that lasting connection of two or more people that have taken at least one tidbit of each other’s lives and internalized them, and created the notion that they are there for each other if needed. Truly you need no enemies, no matter what you think someone is doing to you, to your face or behind your back. Someone doing a wrong to you or others can’t be turned around by force into a friend, but only by showing you can take their hit and smile back at them. Nobody likes to lose, but an argument or a fight is always a losing proposition for anyone involved. Winning is to avoid either by allowing your would be opponent to back down and save face.

I hope that when I am 70 years old, I can look back and say that I gave more than I got, that who I am to other’s dwarfs what I have amassed in possessions or money. I hope my kids and grandkids are following the lead of my grandfather, Edward, who died before he could teach me the meaning of life, but who was able to teach it to his kids, and who were able to teach it to me many years later.

It is an interesting phenomenon to be a die hard competitor, wanting to come out on top in every event I compete in, as a test of myself, and want others to do the same. I have become most successful in my kayaking career, simply by measuring my win ratio, more recently, as the leader of Team JK, coaching my competitors, like Jay Kincaid, Stephen Wright, and Clay Wright. I want them to win, or at least I want them to be unbeatable, and then I try to beat them. I have unveiled every secret I know to training and competing to them. They also have their own secrets of success and share them willingly. The net result is that every event that Jay, Stephen, and I have competed in together in freestyle, we have taken the top three places. How does this fit in to this whole story? Simply that we have achieved much greater success in helping each other than we ever could have by holding back and making sure that we have our own advantage.

My partner, Tony Lunt, has been an example to me, extending whatever help he can to assure that Jackson Kayak can be successful, and more to the point, that I can be successful. It is amazing how that feels each day that I wake up. It is both a comfort blanket that gives me confidence, but the strongest feeling I get from this knowledge is one of wanting to prove that it was the smartest business decision of his life by bring his support back to him many times over. That is a feeling of responsibility I have where I will always think twice before doing anything. Tony has also given me the latitude to make every business decision based on what is right, not what looks best on the bottom line today. This, I believe, if everything I have said above is in fact true, is the best way to run a business, and will prove more successful in the long run than running under a “corporate banner” which is designed to make the corporation a non-living thing, insolating the human side of business from the company itself, but limiting the liability of its owners.

Emily is almost awake on this Saturday morning. I have had two cups of coffee and am getting anxious to go boating with her. Dane is with the Keeners and will paddle with them. Kristine is on-route from Tennessee with our 1988 Landcruiser, a replacement mode of transportation for our totaled Mini-Cooper. I have been borrowing a Miata for the past two weeks from Joe Kowalski. Great 2 seater sports car, but doesn’t transport boats or passengers well. I can’t wait to be mobile again. High Tension wave is in, sweet! I want to go try that for the first time!

Time to rouse Emily, I can’t wait for her to wake up on her own any more, I am watching the Ottawa River flow by at about 25,000 cfs out my RV bedroom window. That is what I call wasting water! Forget leaving your faucet dripping, the river is raging and I am sitting in bed; that is a waste! Slalom or playboating this morning, hummm? I’ll see which Emily wants to do first. Either way we’ll do both; paddling until we can’t lift our arms today. Then, hopefully, Kristine will be here and I can take her to Saffron Bistro in Pembrook, a sweet restaurant with good wine and great food; a perfect reunion.