Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hard words

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Command presence. Show them that you are in charge. It is for your safety and their comfort. People feel secure knowing who is in charge. Having someone take lead is releasing. Practice that authoritative voice. Practice the confidence. Even when you do not know what exactly to do, be confident, you’ll figure it out. 

I am finally graduated. I was able to stand on stage in front of my family and community and take my oath and pledge. Honor integrity and respect are never betrayed, I will always hold myself and other accountable for having the courage to do the right thing. I raised my right hand, and in my newly pressed and never worn before uniform, I pledged myself to a cause greater than myself.

Today, I am in field training. We call it FTO. It is a three month process where they take all the foundations the academy taught us, and mold it to how they want it to look. How does it all apply to my city? It is also a process by which we are graded daily. At the end of each shift, my Field Training Officer writes about a 2 hour report on my progress or lack there of that he has seen over the past twelve hour shift.

I have never been one who does well with constructive criticism. I want to be perfect at everything the first time. Or at least as close to perfect as I need to be to convince those around me. Field training exposes my raw nerves. Shift by shift my arrogance is stripped away and someone peers inside my words and actions and speaks hard words.

Hard words. The ones that should inspire and challenge, but when said just right can deflate my spirit and crush my confidence.

God sometimes says hard words to me. Sometimes he tells me where I am falling short. Where I am screwing it up. And where I should have had a softer heart. Those words are tormenting. Even writing this my face is cringed and I have one eye closed. Just thinking about it causing a physical reaction.

I seek out others approval. I want to please. I want others to like me. I seek the worlds approval and when I fall short of obtaining it, I second guess who I am.

How does one become okay with hard words?

This is the lesson I am learning right now. God has brought me to the place where I must deal with judgement in a healthy, self-respecting way. I must be able to decipher who’s words are important to my life. My field training officer is set on helping me become a fine-tuned officer. He is not out to crush the life out of my dreams. Similarly, my God does not wish to crush me. But to keep me from my own destruction, he must correct me. He must call out my bad behavior, my negative spirit, my intolerance and judgment, and give me the opportunity to turn these things back to him.

I am not of this world, but I was made to be part of this world. I must learn to seek approval only from my God. How is this done? I haven’t the foggiest clue. Save me from myself Lord, I belong to you. Lead me.

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Standing in the six

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I have tried so many times to write something while I have been here at the academy. Something to explain the transition. A great metaphor to reveal my inner workings of my spirit. Each time I sit down I write several lines and then it all falls apart. The words no longer make sense. The concept disjointed. In frustration I will push my laptop away and declare another day I will try again. I have so many words to say, but together they just do not do this justice.

Today I will try again.

I am a cop because I do not know how not to be. It is not just that I am most comfortable in tactical pants and combat boots. It is not that the shine of my badge makes my heart flutter like a little school girl. It is because when I dig deep into my core, the aspects of me that I cherish most, are that of a Guardian and a Warrior.

We have 2 1/2 weeks left here in Academy County. It seems everyday we have another “final test” in some major aspect of our training: knife defense, firearms, defensive tactics, interview skills. These lessons are important and surely they will save lives. Over the course of the past 15 weeks something else has developed in my class. A deep sense of purpose. We have seen videos of some terrible things. We have seen what the ultimate sacrifice looks like. We pull together and understand what it means when you tell someone you have their back in this job. It means you stand at their back and you do not flinch. You do not turn around even if the gunfight is behind you. You maintain your position because that partner is relying on you. Trusting you with their life.

What does that look like in relationships? A good friend once came to the realization that in the bible it is said we should put on the armor of God. As the armor is described, she realized nothing was stated for the back. Warriors do not retreat, she declared, so we have no protection over our back. The only way a Warrior can rest, she went on, is when another Warrior takes up position behind them and uses their body armor as cover. Standing at their six, a Warrior can finally take a breath.

We learn support positions in building clearing and active shooter situations. One is always rear guard. Only when “support!” is cried out, can that rear guard turn and face the force in behind them.

We are called to cover one another. Called to stand in the gap between life and need. Stand in a support position covering each others backs. Without it, the enemy will have a place to attack. Slithering up behind us, he will climb us and sneak into the spaces between our armor. He will invade our head and bring the battle to a whole new front. Like a schizophrenic, we will begin hearing voices not our own. Taken as truth we will accept them. The game is nearly won then. An infection can kill a person just as easily as a knife wound. No need to create a scene when you can kill from the inside.

We are all called to be Guardians. We are our brothers keeper. We are called to call out the lies in one another. Call out the chinks in each others armor. And most importantly, we are called to stand in the absences, taking each others backs and saying, here I will stand. Here I will remain.

There is something terrifyingly wonderful about standing in that position and hearing your partner fight a battle, while remaining steadfast in your position. You are trusting them as much as they are trusting you. Your body armor protecting each other. Your trust protecting each other.

The trouble it might drag you down

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When you live life loud, you need people who are willing to shout above the lies.

I held on to the phone tightly, cradling it against my cheek and ear, listening to the soothing balm of my best friend tell me everything was going to be okay. She heard the battle dripping from my words.

I feel like a failure.
I am not sure I can handle this.
What if this is the end.
What if I was wrong and wasn’t supposed to leave…

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
they fill you with fear

The silver wings jetted out from the side of the steal bird. Below was buildings with tin roofs spread out like a broken picnic surrounding the landing strip. A country unknown to me. New risks, new failures awaited. Inside my ears the song “home” by Phillips Phillips was blaring away my fears. A I stepped off the plane, I stepped into the unknown.

the trouble it might drag you down

I remember those picturesque evenings growing up. The potlucks with neighbors. Pick up games of baseball in the empty field. Firefly catching after dark. Fire pits and belly laughter.

Do you remember the moment that home no longer became home? Sure, you always have a place to put your stuff. Drop it on a known floor surrounded by known people. But somehow the childhood home can change dramatically and no longer felt like home. My parents sold our childhood home recently. I had long moved out, been to two different colleges and lived in three cities (one in a different country) since then, but still it felt like ripping a piece of reality and placing it firmly in the memory category.

if you get lost you can always be found

Four years had passed. Getting back on the plane was more numbing than I realized. I walked towards the gate; Phone clutched like a lifeline in one hand, ticket in the other. I wanted to bolt. My feet walked towards the line and my mind slipped further and further out of sync with my heart. Disconnect. Abyss. Move your feet, move your lips. Say the words that need to be said. Yes, thank you. I think that my seat. No, I’m fine. No peanuts please. Just heading…. my words failed me. A stout man looked back at me puzzled. I had stopped mid-sentence. How do I describe to this man that I am leaving home and heading home? How do I….?

I turned away in silence and fear. Go numb again.

just know you’re not alone

I snapped out of my daydream, pulled back from the edge of my memories, as she spoke again. It is all a mind game. When you live life loud, expect the attack to be louder. I had heard the idea about living such life that when you awoke the devil trembled. My mom had talked about how the devil had little use to attack those that presented him no harm or foul. But rather the vicious attacks must be slew at those who presented the most danger.

War is a series of battles. All loud. All gruesome. Not all are fought on the same field however. Most of my battle are fought between the spaces of my ears. Where there is the most echo and the least likely to be heard and challenged by others.

When you live life loud, expect the battle to be louder. Your screams for victory or calling defeat are only a single voice in the tribulation of the battle you are in. Surround yourself with people who are able to recognize the battle and are willing to shout above the lies.

“Failures make the victories worth celebrating,” my sister messaged me. “You have got this, do not second guess yourself.” No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.

Change is difficult. I sleep, I eat, I pray, I practice, I fret, I study, I move and function like most other humans on this planet. My story intersects with many other people. I am not alone in this. I am surrounded by people willing to shout above the loudness of my life.

I’m going to make this place your home.

Phillips Phillips was on repeat the day I landed, the day I boarded and many days in the four year span in between. Now he is currently serenading me with the same tune and the same promise from God. Settle down, it will become clear. That noise and battle? Thats the demons, trying to take away my peace from you. Just know my baby girl, you are not alone. You are going to hate this for a moment, but trust me with this. I am going to make this place your home. You will be safe here too. In my arms you are kept. Forever and for always.

Adjusting

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I have to wear a jacket. Inside. At. All. Times.

Many people have asked me, “April, how are you adjusting to being back in America?” Though I know they mean well, most often times I will start to cry. So I guess that is a good indicator of how I am adjusting.

I sat with a coworker yesterday at an delicious pizzeria. She was talking, and I was trying to pay attention, but my focus kept drifting out the window. Behind this tiny pizzeria was a beautiful landscape. Despite the fact that it feels like winter, there was bright green grass that looked healthy, and some radiant flowers still in full bloom. I thought, “how beautiful is America .” We keep our lawns manicured. We plant beautiful flowers. We strive to keep our land clean. I contrasted it with how barren Jubilee is. We would cheer when weeds would sprout. Everything is brown and dusty.

I was riding along with another coworker just a few days earlier. He asked about Haiti. What was it like? He wanted to know. Was it really as dirty and ugly as all of the pictures? I just got a huge smile on my face and said “It was so beautiful.” Yes, Jubilee has barren ground, but how much more precious is a single tree then? The flag hanging off the world trade centers, after the collapse, was so beautiful because of the barrenness all around. That is what Jubilee is. A backdrop to what may be the most beautiful story every written in the history of mankind. The story of God’s love, etched in the fiber of each of our students; A Joseph’s coat of colors against a dirt backdrop. How much more radiant is that?

In Jubilee it was easy to see the beauty. For the comparisons were little. In America, it is much harder. I have chosen to get into a line of work were I get to see people at their ugliest. People do not call the police when good things are happening. They call them when guns, violence, destruction of property or soul are happening. I must go rushing in. In the barrenness of Jubilee, I got to be part of the beautiful moments. In the beauty of America, I am part of the ugly moments. What a switch is that.

I am adjusting. I am picking up the pieces of my broken heart. I am placing them on the foot of the cross, You asked for this Papa, so here it is. More broken than before. Make something beautiful out of this dust.

He calmly scoops up the dust of my heart, and holds it close to his own, as if it were a prized possession. He whispers a promise I cling to: I Am.

Be strong

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I sat in the plane on that tarmac. I opened the window and gazed out at my view. It was one with which I was familiar. I could see tin roof houses in the distance. Mountains nearby. Brown everywhere. The airport was being renovated and signs of construction were still dotting the building. I prayed the plane wouldn’t start. I prayed the pilot wouldn’t be able to fly. The engine slowly roared to life as tears stung my eyes once again. We began to chug forward, full weight of a hundred people dragging our planes belly to the ground. The engine struggled, my heart did too. The plane took off, my heart sunk.

Over the next twelve hours, I had two layovers and landed in three different states…and one different country. I was in a fog, when I wasn’t crying. I was numb, when I wasn’t feeling the weight of my decision suffocating my tiny lungs. My plane touched down. The flight attendant announced we had arrived in Omaha. “If Omaha is your final destination, welcome home,” she chirped.

Papa, papa, please please don’t let this be permanent. I told you I would come. I said I would follow you. Please don’t let this be home for long. Please Daddy, I can’t handle this.

My girl, home is with me. Home cannot be taken away from you. You are not displaced. You are moving your feet as I lead. Follow me and you will always be home. You are not supposed to handle this baby girl, you are supposed to follow life and give me the jumbled pieces. I am the master weaver.

My family was running around the airport trying to find me. I was sitting by the baggage claim with no bags to claim. They ran upstairs and downstairs and outside. I was sitting right there all along. Neither of us noticing the other. Finally, I walked around a corner, and there they were signs held high, “welcome home april!!” Glitter signs decorated and smiling faces. It was past midnight and they had met me there.

Papa, meet me in my brokenness. When I cannot move, run around finding me. Meet me papa, for I cannot move past this moment. This breath.

Sweet daughter of mine, you have enough grace for this moment. Wrapped in my arms, I do not need to run frantically trying to find you, I see you sitting there. I witness your pain. I see the loss my asking has caused. I am with you. Just this breath.

It has been two days. I have tried to get up and move and participate in the world. But vertigo keeps me at bay. My best friend said, “It makes sense that your head is spinning…. your world is spinning too and your body is trying to cope with it.” So with tempered enthusiasm I venture from the house. I bought socks but forgot to buy a toothbrush. I visit my nephews, but can’t stay long. I try to cope with losing my school, my students, my tribe. I’ve sat down to write too many times only to come up empty. Words fail.

Write with your heart not your thoughts.

My family is outing on a “Welcome home” party for me this Sunday. My mom has asked me to share my heart with the people. I have a feeling I will just stand up there and cry. But maybe the tears are good. Maybe the tears say, ” I have invested this much. I have witnessed this much. I have lived with you this much.” I’ve been told time and time again that tears are strength. So maybe I will stand up there and just be strong in the only way my heart knows how to right now.

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Vital Pieces

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I began applying for jobs in August 2014. I applied at Papillion Police Department sometime that year. I have flown home for each step of their 4 step process. Basic exams, panel interviews,  more exams, chief and deputy chief interview, followed by even more exams. I have spent thousands of dollar in plane ticket. Many a hours in prayer and probably an equal amount of hours in worry.

And they called. They offered me the position. A new recruit. I begin October 5th, with the academy beginning October 23rd. I am beyond excited to be part of the Papillion PD family. Everyone there has been beyond great and helpful. I cannot wait to serve this community with everything I have.

But I have to also admit my heart is crushed to leave Haiti. I feel God calling me back to America, but that doesn’t mean he is taking away the pain of the transition.

When you love something this much, it wraps itself around the very arteries in your heart. So taking yourself out of it, is like pulling out vital pieces of your being.

I often hear from people and teams how great it is that I have moved to Haiti. That I am serving here. What a sacrifice it all is. Honesty though, Haiti is not a sacrifice for me. Yes, I have left my family and that sucks. But I love what I do here. I love my teaching staff, I love my children. I love my american community who gets together and cries and prays. I love that I can sit on a rooftop and have a cold coke with soldiers and warriors of God. I love being able to walk over to my neighbors house and one of them will have a word from the Lord for me. I love my school, this passion, the idea of changing a community. I love tucking Youvendjy in to bed every night, and late night talks with the girls. I love living in rustic, without a real mirror, in hand me down clothes that are too big or bleached. I love being here.

Haiti is not a sacrifice for me. I begged God to be here. Moving back to America is me sacrificing for the Lord. I might have air conditioning and tastier meals. But I have begged God not to ask me to go.

He whispers, “You do not have to go, my precious daughter, but I am not done shaping you. I wont force you to go, but I will quietly hold out my hand and ask you to trust me. Follow me when it doesn’t make sense. Believe in me as much as I believe in you.

And with my head down and tears in my eyes, I hold out my hand and say, “Okay Papa, I do not understand, but I promised I would follow you to the ends of the earth. The end of the earth to me, is America. But if you want me even there, I will go.

So I am packing my bags. Booking a flight. Crying every couple of minutes. I am savoring these precious moments with my students, Youvendjy and my second family. September 31st I will board a plane and leave behind my heart.

Please be praying that leaving doesn’t tear out all the vital pieces. Pray that I am refined, not crushed. Pushed, but not abandoned. Pray I do not let go of my Papas hand as he leads me to another home.

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Failure

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It was not that long ago.The email had been received, the interview scheduled. The day had arrived and I stood in front of the mirror in my black suit. I had been given money for a new suit for Christmas. After mad sales shopping, I was able to stretch that money to include a blouse and new pumps as well. Yet standing in front of the mirror I felt like a fraud.

My resume sounds great. I mean, I have a solid education, wonderful previous internships. All my employers would likely give glowing recommendations. Yet I stood in front of that mirror and looked beyond the nervous 20 something staring back at me. I looked inside and saw I was far less than that puffed up resume made me out to be.

I distinctly remember 5 years ago, as I sat down with my background investigator with Missouri Stat Highway Patrol. After a month of intense interviews, with everyone I had probably ever looked at, he stared me down and said, “I couldn’t find anyone who could say something negative about you, but I’m concerned, because I also couldn’t find someone who could tell me a time in which you failed. So I do not know- how will you react when you fail?” I walked away from that meeting annoyed. Yes, I had failed, many previous times, I thought, but people tend to remember successes. I pushed it out of my mind.

As I looked myself in the mirror, I heard his words again and this time I had a visceral reaction. I had failed recently. That failure was burned in my mind and seared me down to my core. I didn’t realize this at the time. See, I had tried out for a police department, the very first test was the physical- I failed miserably. The dead dummy drag killed me. I could not for the life of me drag that 180 pound beast. For the first full minute I heaved and grunted and cried in my throat as I tugged at that lifeless dummy. He mocked me and laid still, not even giving me the satisfaction of an inch. After several minutes of deep grunting and searching the deepest parts of my physical limits, I finally drug him past the mark. Everyone cheered for me to sprint to the finish line. As I turned to sprint, I fell. Not a delicate fall. No, my legs were not responding to my brains directions and my body twisted and my legs stayed put. I fell hard. Embarrassed, I pulled myself up quickly and lunged forward. My legs did not follow, I fell again. Again and again, I pulled myself up and made it a step or two,  before my legs would stop responding and head first I would plummet towards the ground and ugly embarrassment. Once I crossed the finish line, I had to sit down for several minutes before the blood finally returned to my legs and I was able to walk without looking like a drunkard stumbling home. With a pat on the shoulder I was dismissed. Head hung low, I tucked my tail and went home.

I had failed. I realized as I looked back that I could not recall many times I had failed. The things I had called failures before were not really failures. I hadn’t placed  high in my league- but I still placed. I didn’t make the position I wanted, but still was part of the team. This was one of the first times that I had put myself out there completely and had the results labeled as insufficient. I had failed. Hard.

As I begun the process of applying with this new department, I quickly recognized the lady who was administering our tests. She was the one who administered my physical for the last department. My heart jumped into my throat. I can honestly say, I thought about walking straight out of the written test she was overseeing that day. My failure was seared in my memory as something impossible to overcome. Eventually, I would have to face that dummy again. Eventually, I would fail again. Why not save myself the embarrassment?

But I stayed for the test, I went to more tests, and then the interviews. I had forgotten my pumps in a different country, so I was forced to wear my mothers. They were too big. I had to stuff them with cotton balls. It was the perfect picture for how I felt inside. Like I was wearing big kid clothes and going to big important meetings, but inside I was just a kid wearing her mothers stuffed heels.

I have made it to the final steps. Conditional offers are being made Tuesday. If I am given an offer, I have to go face my fear, and do another physical. I have invested thousands of dollars in airplane tickets attempting to get this job. My heart is on the line. Adrenaline surges through my fingertips. I am terrified I will choke and fail again. I am doing two-a-day workout and flooding my body with more nutrients than it has received at any point in time in the past four years. Yet, I do not know if it will be enough.

So, as I reach this point, where my body is physically exhausted and my brain is still racing, I have to cry out to God as David did. I read and pray through the Psalms and I can feel myself screaming the same words:

Save me Lord
Let me not be given over to the enemies
Strengthen your servant
I cry out to you in desperation, in fear, in turmoil
Forget me not
Hear my desperate pleas
I will cling to you- you are my refuge
I will trust in you- especially in my Darkness
Leave me not, please, don’t turn away from me

And slowly my heart rate returns to normal. The adrenaline dissipates. My breath is let out in a deep sigh. I do not know if my effort is enough, but I have a God who is. A God who is powerful in my weakness. Who strengthen me. Who, for some reason I cannot understand, loves me beyond recognition. And He cares. Legit cares, about what worries me. So I unburden myself and spill it all out on His feet. Like a best friend I can whisper my darkest dreads, I whisper, Papa, I am terrified I will fail. Please, please, please Papa, don’t let me fail.

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
 “I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you,”

Psalms 91:14-16

New Eyes

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It is always an amazing experience to have people you love come visit the place you love. It is a meshing of two worlds. Colliding in my own front yard; I see on their faces, all the emotions I experienced my first time here. I get to pull back the curtain and share with them the personal life hidden behind these blog posts. They get to interact with kids they have heard stories about. See, in person, things they couldn’t have imagined despite the photos. It offers me a unique opportunity as well to once again look through a new persons eyes. I get to pull back the scabs and callouses and see a fresh.

Recently, my little sister Sammie and her friend Kelsey were here. My friends invited us to a pool. Upon arrival I commented, “Oh what a nice pool!” It wasn’t until halfway through swimming that I took an honest look around and realized, they had good reason to not get their hair wet. We were swimming in what looked like a many year abandoned pool.

It is funny situations like these that get new eyes when newbies come down. It is good to have the callouses of your heart peeled back. Glimpsing with new eyes, the pain we have become accustom to. And having to explain in detail, the beauty we are able to wring out of this place.

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“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know.” -William Wilberforce

O ye of little faith

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O ye of little faith

I sit huddled in my darkened room. The only thing illuminated is the headlamp shinning dimly on the words in front of me, “O ye of little faith.” Well, actually since it was the ESV version it probably said something slightly more in this century, but honestly when reading condemning words I always hear the KJV in my head.

“Why are you anxious? Why do you worry and fret about tomorrow? Today is enough trouble of its own.”

Its true. Today has been exceptionally hard. Having two families funding and both pulling their kids out of school, loosing a friend who works for us as she flees with her kids in fear of their lives, another mom sending off two of her children to live with distant relatives because she can’t afford to feed them and nearly two dozen parents angry and depressed their children didn’t get accepted in our school- is a full day for me. A low throb has ebbed and flowed through my cranium since 7 this morning. I refused medicine. My body needs to be strong.

Which leads me to the panic that began this letter. In two months time I will be reentering the world of America. Fear rushes over me as sweat clings to my crinkled brow. From third world to first world. The culture transition, leaving my friends and loved ones behind, leaving everything I have slowly cultivated with my blood, sweat and tears over the past four years, hoping it somehow continues to thrive without my nurturing hand- it is enough to stop the strongest of warriors leaving them clenching a wall for support. Or so I tell myself as I clutch the nearest sturdy object while grasping my chest.

Tonight, more even than all of this, I fear something simple and mundane. I fear not having a job. I know from the outside it may seem ridiculous. I am well educated, with a Master degree to prove it. I have experience and good recommendations. However, the what-ifs creep up. What-if I dont find a job for several months? What-if I cannot afford to live anywhere but my parents spare room? What-if I am overqualified for any small job and under qualified for any real job and thus stuck in the middle and nobody wants to hire me? What-if I cannot pay my student loans? What-if I have to go back to my 10 year high school reunion (which is next year by the way) and tell them I am a 26 year old, living with her parents and no real job? What if? What if? What if? The more what-ifs I go through, the more anxious I get. The more anxious I get the less I trust. The less I trust, the more the devil wins.

The Deceivers only power is to deceive. And the power is only gained if the lie is believed.

I can hear Pastor Chuck ,in the back of my mind, quoting Jeremiah 29:11, like he has done a thousand times since my youth. “I know the plans I have for you…”

Still though, my heart is not. It races and patters, it flips and flops. It cries out for some calming which I seemingly cannot bring it. I need prayer. I need warriors and soldiers and healers and seekers to come together for me. I need outstretched hands and open hearts. If there is anything I have learned here in Haiti it is that I cannot do this alone. So I seek you. Please, pray for me.

Parents

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Sometimes I am overcome by the parents of our students. We get the good, the bad, and the ugly at our school. We have had to have talks about how hitting kids in the head can actually make them less intelligent. Our director and teacher had to go talk to a parent who tried to poison their child, and on more than one occasion we have stopped a parent from brutally beating their kid.

But- but- sometimes we also have beautiful parents. Like Dedson’s mama who without fail walks him to school everyday. Plays with him, jokes with him, and always makes sure his uniform is clean.

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We have Messi-love’s mama who when it is muddy or her son is sleepy, will carry him on her back all the way to school.

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We have Sopharah’s daddy, who, as a single father, still makes sure Sopharah always comes looking beautiful. Who speaks up at parent meetings to defend the new ideas we give. And is always ready to back us.100_1466

We have the mama, who apologized to her daughter in all sincerity because she realized the wrong she had done. The mama who later said “I know they love my child because they stopped me from beating her.” DSC00627

The mama who paid for her daughter to get a tutor to make sure she stayed caught up in class.

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Please continue to pray for the parents of our students. Little by little we are trying to change them. But it is like changing a redwood tree, tall, proud and firm. Pray for softened hearts, open minds and the love of God to pour out in physical ways. The more we can invest in them- the more they can invest in their children.