As a child, I played in my father’s dusty surgical supply warehouse while he worked long hours nurturing his soon-to-be successful business. “Invest early and the future takes care of itself,” he’d often say to me. As a young girl, I didn’t know what he meant, and frankly didn’t care about learning life’s lessons; I was more about spinning on the electric wheelchairs and riding up and down the storeroom conveyer belt.   

Harry was born in an impoverished region of upstate New York during the time of the Great Depression.  Visiting his hometown today, dilapidated buildings still line main street and children play in tattered clothes.   Knowing his drive to elevate from resource-poor childhood circumstances, I envision his early life engaged at school with big dreams for his future.  

Moving from his hometown to attend Syracuse University after high school, and then in 1959 to start a family in up-and-coming Miami Beach, Florida was a difficult decision for Harry; he was leaving his support system, after all.  But he knew economic mobility would be tricky in a region offering such little work and few resources.  

Harry’s courage to invest early in his dreams eventually paid off; the knowledge gained in college expanded his earning potential, and his new confidence landed him exploring broader business opportunities.  Eventually, financial security replaced his tendency toward generational economic poverty. 

But young Harry had his ‘Raise Me Up” village; he learned early to invest in himself as a direct reflection of all those who first invested in him.  While his parents worked long hours, he spent quality time with friends and their parents, neighbors, mentors and coaches; teachers called home and his counselors offered him guidance.  

Because Harry’s school and community invested time and resources into him, he took action to invest in himself.  And because he invested in himself, he valued and invested in his family and community.     

We all make investments, and what we invest in matters.  There seems no more critical time than now to invest in our community’s children.  While COVID-19 disruptions elevate stress due to employment and economic uncertainties, children are experiencing elevated confusion and anxiety.  Academic gains in virtual environments are increasingly challenging while families face greater housing and food insecurities.  

Teachers, administrators, and community school staff are not simply front-line workers; they are front-line heroes.  In COVID-19’s ever-changing environment, they have adapted to virtual platforms, unpredictable conditions, and health risks.  They have innovated their approach to better meet the needs of students and families.  Their willingness to show up and scale up their skills, and personal and professional investments is vital to the academic, social, and emotional well-being of our children and future communities.     

But they can’t secure our future alone.  How can you level-up your investment in children during this time of COVID-19?  What small (or large) amount of dedicated attention can you pay forward to a neighbor’s child or community youngster?  What food or clothing might you donate to a local community school or food pantry?  How can you transition just one of those weekly work-zoom calls to spend time with a mentee and share your knowledge and instill hope?

Whether with your time or financial resources, investing in children matters.   

To all of my father’s early investors:  Thank you.  You are the giants, the shoulders on which I stand.  Because of you, I have the absolute honor and privilege to invest forward every single day while witnessing and partnering with others who do the same.  Thank you to all those who continue to level-up.   

Understanding more deeply now, I leave you with my father’s wise teaching: “Invest early, and the future takes care of itself.” 

–Amy Ellis 

October 2020