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HOMETOWN HERO | Christina Parker: A life of litmus tests
When Christina Parker was asked why she volunteers, she says, “I love it. I am like a kid in a candy store; I want to do everything.”
But getting to “yes” takes a bit of thought.
“I have litmus tests for saying yes to anything, however. I ask myself, ‘Will this make a positive difference for others?’, and ‘Will anyone be hurt if I say yes to this, such as my family?’”
Parker has been a volunteer with South Whidbey’s fire district for the past 16 years. She has been a firefighter, officer and EMT.
One night she knew her commitment was taking its toll on her family when her pager went off in the middle of dinner.
“My girls both burst into tears and said, ‘Mommy don’t go!’ After that I turned in my firefighting gear, keeping only my EMT position. I cried when I did, as I loved it, but I knew immediately that my children come first, and I never want to hurt them.”
“Words will never carry alone,” she explains. “I have to back them up with actions.”
Before she acts, another litmus test she uses is imagining herself being video taped. “What if all of my actions were to be made public in the light of day? Is this thing I am about to do something I will be proud of now and 20 years from now?”
People who know Parker say she’s very committed to her principles.
“First, she is a devoted wife and mother,” says Sherrye Watt, who has worked alongside Parker on the South Whidbey Fire/EMS team.
“She always patiently listens to others’ opinions, yet will firmly stand her ground if it is something important. I admire her how when many times it would have been easier for her to take another route in her volunteer work, however, she persevered in order to get the very best results.”
Another of Parker’s personal litmus tests is if she starts to question another person’s actions.
“I ask myself, am I judging?” Parkers says. “I find this exercise challenging. It’s amazing how ingrained ‘judging’ is.”
“I want to give others the benefit of the doubt,” she adds. “For example, if someone cuts me off in traffic and I feel annoyed, I counter my annoyance, ‘judgment,’ by envisioning what might be happening with that driver. Perhaps they just received some bad news; this makes it easier for me to forgive them.
“It’s like the story of the two monks walking through the forest, when they come upon a lady asking for help to cross a creek. The first monk lovingly carries the lady across. The lady complained the entire time, and left without a thank-you. The monks continue walking for two miles, when the second monk says, ‘What a rude lady that she didn’t even appreciate your help.’ The first monk says, ‘I set her down two miles ago, why are you still carrying her?’”
Carrying annoyance and resentment around negatively affects her, she says.
“I don’t want those thoughts to take up space in my life.”
Parker is always thoughtful, and does everything with grace, says Marchele Hatchner, a real estate broker and volunteer on South Whidbey.
“Christina is such a delight she causes everyone around her to feel welcomed and empowered. She has been the Whidbey Island Association of Realtors president for two years, and does an outstanding job,” Hatchner says. “Sometimes I need a nap just hearing her schedule! She is a wife and mom first, involved with her girls’ activities. And then she’s a volunteer EMT, in a community choir, church choir, Washington State Realtors Land-Use Committee, etc.
“I have learned so much just knowing her and working with her,” Hatchner continues. “She cares about others, and wants them to be their very best, and makes her decisions in life accordingly.”
When asked how Parker makes decisions, she concentrates, looking down at clasped hands, and then lifts her eyes with that big wide smile. It’s her intuition, she says.
“I listen to my gut. When I don’t, I am always sorry.
“For example, when I have taken on a client that I knew I shouldn’t have, or if I go along with something that doesn’t feel quite right.”
Instinct is her best guide.
“My parents taught me honesty and using my instincts. One time when I was in grade school, my dad and I were renting a video. He forgot his video punch card, and this was to be his 10th free video. The girl at the store said, ‘That’s OK, take the video and when you get home tear up the punch card.’
“As soon as we got home, dad tore his card up. I thought he could have kept it and used it again and no one would have known, that made a big impression on me.
“We cannot compromise on our principles and integrity. It takes a long time to build up trust. One misstep, and we have to build it up all over again.”
She says she thinks of her parents’ honorable examples and the importance for young people to have good, solid role models.
“Growing up is tough enough. I remember those tender emotional days of junior high. I still deal with low self-esteem,” she says.
Then, with a smile, she recalls, “A boss I had once gave all his employees a personality test. My strengths, he said, was I was very happy. My weaknesses was I didn’t have the incentive to strive for more. In other words I am, ‘fat, dumb and happy.’”
She laughs again. “Actually, maybe this is a good thing.”
“I know my self-esteem causes me to shrink back from competition and some debatable positions. For instance, I could never have been on the school board like my husband was.”
James Enslow, of Intelli-choice Communications, worked with Christina as a firefighter for many years.
“Christina has been an inspiration to me for over 15 years,” Enslow says.
“There are some people you can work along with seamlessly, fluidly, and Christina is one of those people, and with that mega-watt smile.
“I have seen Christina the mom, making time allocations and scheduling work to provide a rich life for her two daughters. And Sarah and Megan are proof of the pudding, as they are unfailingly bright, friendly, and polite, a reflection of their mom and dad,” Enslow says.
Parker says she will never be sorry for the time she spends with her family.
“My litmus tests are guiding principles I want to keep before me. A road map, or maybe it’s more like a flow chart. The vision I have … is not so much like a bird soaring, but rather more like a plow horse plugging away as I focus on the next step in front of me,” she says.
“I have a far way to go, but I think I am on a good path.”
BIO Christina Helen Parker
Born: Aug. 14, 1968 in Seattle.
Family: Her father John was an airline pilot, and her mom, Janet, a homemaker who later became a librarian; two brothers, Tom and Greg. Husband Rich Parker, they married April 30, 1994. Children, Sarah, 13, and Megan, 9.
Education: Wheat Ridge High School, Wheat Ridge, Colo.; University of Colorado, Denver.
Years on Whidbey: 18.
Hobbies: Singing, traveling, reading.
Some South Whidbey people you admire:
Rich Parker, Rick Ingrasci and Peggy Taylor, Suzanne Fageol, Jackie Amatucci, Dave Johnson and Helen Price Johnson, the MacInerney family, Karen, Michael, Tanner and Logan, Les Hagstrom and Marchele Hatchner.
What is something not everyone knows about you?
“I’m adopted, and my birth mom, Vicky, found me recently. Also my real mom, my adoptive mom that raised me, also adopted out a son when she was younger, and he found her recently. So I have a newfound brother, and a birth mom I call Vicky. I learned there is something to genes, as I am a lot like my birth mom, and my new brother is a lot like my mom.”
What do you tell your children?
“Always be kind. You don’t have to always be generous or let people run all over you, but you do always need to be kind.”
What bores you?
“TV, that’s why we don’t have one. Also mundane tasks bore me.”
One of your favorite times of day?
“I love to go outside first thing in the morning with my coffee and listen to the birds with my girls. We wrap a blanket around us and enjoy the birds’ music.”
What is something you try to do every day?
“I read every day. Also try to do something new or something I’ve never thought I could do, maybe something a little scary. I get out of my comfort zone and watch the magic begin.”
What others say about Christina Parker
“Christina brings love, compassion, commitment and dedication to everyone she works with and everything she touches. Whether she is at a fire, working as an EMT, showing people a house, helping out with a school or Girl Scout project or helping a friend, she is there for you 110 percent. You can always count on her.
She connects deeply with other people, her love and sense of service is about a greater whole than herself.”
Suzanne Fageol, spiritual director and Episcopal priest
“Seldom does one meet a ‘giver’ like Christina. She is one who steps to the plate and gives back in so many different ways to the community.
As a member of WICA Chamber Singers and Conservatory Choir, she has freely offered her help in any way needed: organization, communication, mentorship and complete support of all members of the group. She always has a smile on her face and her interactions are always positive.
I have been pleased to have her as part of the choirs and performances.
I have been ever impressed with Christina’s ‘can-do’ attitude. Nothing is a barrier, and when obstacles are present, she is a problem solver — always seeking a solution. She is dedicated, caring and loyal to everything with which she is involved.”
Rob Prosch, former high school principal, producer/conductor
“I have known Christina and her family for the past six years, through our families’ mutual involvement at church. I admire her and am inspired by the active and caring roles that she takes within her family and community. She wears many hats and her ‘caring ministry’ extends to everyone. Christina is a very positive role model for the children and adults in our community.”
Michele Anderson, St. Augustine’s church member
“Chris is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met.
Chris’ beautiful smile is always beaming love and kindness. Chris ran the Whidbey Cyber Cafe & Bookstore with me for six years and her goodness and her desire to be of service touched everyone who came through our doors.
Chris is living proof that true happiness comes from serving others. As a mother, a friend, a volunteer firefighter, an EMT or a real estate agent, Chris beams with joy when serving her family and community and shows you can too!”
Rick Ingrasci, volunteer and co-owner Big Mind Media
“Chris is a wonderful person, a real gift to our congregation. She participates in so many different ways. She sings with our choir, she’s very involved with her two children in our Sunday School program. She helps our parish nurse on blood check days. She volunteers in the broader sense of what it means to be in a Christian community.
I love the way she volunteers in the greater community and with the fire department, too. This speaks to her commitment and expresses her Christian faith other than just on Sundays.”
Father Nigel Taber-Hamilton, St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods
“Christina Parker is a very high-energy person who is always on the go, whether it is doing things with her kids on school projects or working on projects for the fire department. She is always motivated by a challenge and tries to make the community a better place to live for everybody. She will go out of her way to help people in need but never asks for anything in return.”
Paul Busch, South Whidbey Assistant Fire Chief
“Christina was the first person I met when we moved to Langley in August of 2002. We were both at the Bayview Farmers Market, pushing strollers and towing toddlers. She is a great role model for my children (who says girls can’t be firefighters?) and is the person I seek out when I need to have some fun. Christina IS the spirit of South Whidbey, and I’m delighted that she’s been recognized as a Hometown Hero.”
Karen Wisont, volunteer
“I met Christina six years ago when I first started selling real estate on Whidbey Island. About a year later we became business partners. What drew me to her was observing how she did things, whether volunteer work, her interaction with her family or how she worked with real estate clients. Whatever she does is at 110 percent of what most people could do, even those who excel. I feel blessed to consider her a friend, and to be on her list of those she considers a friend. She is smart, organized and kind. What more can you ask of a person?”
Gary Ingram, Realtor and volunteer
“For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be in the fire department. I can’t wait until I am 16 because then I can be a firefighter like my mom. When I am 18 I can be an EMT. I also might like to try marine rescue; I love being on the water. I also might want to be a pilot like my mom.
She can change hats at a moment’s notice. For example, one time we were driving down the road and there was a car accident in front of us. My mom pulled over, got out of the car and took off her heels, put on her fire boots and bunker gear and went to help. Because she is a volunteer it makes it even more impactful for me. When I hear the pager go off, I wish I could go help, too.”
Sarah Parker, one of the hero’s daughters
“I love to talk about my mom! My mom and my sister once in a while have a ‘yes’ day and without my mom, ‘yes’ days would be boring. A yes day is when mom has to say yes to (mostly) everything! Also whenever I have friendship problems my mom is always there for me and that really helps me. I love my Mom and Dad more then ANYONE in the WORLD.”
Megan Parker, one of the hero’s daughters
“Christina Parker is one amazing woman. On top of what we see her doing on Whidbey - volunteer firefighter, emergency medical responder, WICA mega-volunteer and production assistant, member of the Chamber Singers and Conservatory Choir, Realtor with Coldwell Banker - she has a pilot’s license, and flight instructor, she’s a skilled seamstress, a equestrienne and a musician.
What is so wonderful and refreshing about Christina is how modest she can be, all the while keeping up a schedule that would make one’s head spin.
Christina loves people, and has the ability to laugh at herself and take herself lightly.”
Katharine Pfeiffer, volunteer
“A community is always better off when we have individuals like Chris who are conscientious, dedicated and caring EMTs who are willing to stop anything they’re doing or get up in the middle of the night to go out and help someone in need. She has always been committed to her volunteer work as an EMT. From the beginning as a first responder, then becoming an EMT instructor, she took on each of these responsibilities with 110 percent of effort. Chris has always been a nurturer, putting others before herself. She was perfectly suited to be a mother. She loves her daughters unconditionally, always taking care of every need, always there to be a part of their lives, always thoughtful of what they might need.
Chris is kind. She always sees the bright spots in people. She is the first to give anyone the benefit of doubt. There have been times I have made a remark about what someone said, and she responds with, ‘He probably didn’t mean it that way.’”
Rich Parker, husband, and active community volunteer
“I work with Christina at Coldwell Banker Tara Properties and she is modest, talented, giving, broad-minded, sees the big picture evidenced by her recognition on a state level where she is on the important land issues committee. As the president of the local Realtor association, WIAR, she works to increase her knowledge and looks for every opportunity to share her knowledge. She is solid! And, she is an excellent role model as an accomplished pilot.”
Candace Jordan, Realtor and volunteer