The story goes something like this. A young man leaves the East Coast on a Greyhound bus. He arrives in the Seattle bus terminal, tired, broke, and needing to use a restroom. The restrooms in the bus station are locked, requiring a dime to enter. A fellow passenger notices the young man’s distress and gives him the dime for the restroom. Thanking the man, he returns to the restroom only to find the door open. Now he has a dime! He walks to Pike Place Market, buys half a dozen apples, walks back to the bus station, and sells them for a nickel each. He continues to do this and in time is delivering produce to small grocery stores. Many years later, he is in his 70’s, rich and successful. He relates his story to a curious journalist. The journalist says, “I bet you’d really like to thank the man that gave you the dime.” The man thinks for a moment and says, “Yes, I guess so. But, you know, I’d really like to thank the guy that left the door open!”
My story is about Dave, a guy who left the door open for me.
A few weeks ago, I emailed Dave, a real estate developer that I had worked for many years ago. We hadn’t been in touch for over five years. I was delighted when he responded positively to my email and invited me to his office for lunch. He now owns buildings and data centers all over the United States and is a multi-millionaire a hundred times over.
In 1979, I had moved back to the States from Chile, broke, homeless, jobless and with a wife and two little girls in tow. Interest rates were at an all-time high and the economy was in the tank. Happily, I was able to find a job as an electrician and ended up on one of Dave’s buildings. I didn’t know him then. He was the elusive “owner” of the project.
Over the next year, I continued working on his buildings, and became part owner of the electrical company I was working for. His superintendent noticed me and requested that I be the foreman of the next project. He encouraged me to get the Electrical Administrator’s License for Washington State (Master Electrician). Then the company asked me to review and improve on the electrical design of the next two projects. In time, I became field superintendent of Dave's electrical company.
What I didn’t know was that Dave was orchestrating all this in the background through his superintendent and other employees. Not only did Dave leave the door open, but he was nudging me through it. Within a couple of years, I was running Dave’s electrical company. (Proverbs 22:29)
With economic reversals, Dave had to close his electrical company, and we parted ways for a time. I had my own company for a while but eventually ended up at VECA Electric. In time, things settled down economically and Dave approached me again. He had millions of dollars in data center electrical work, and he wanted me to do it. He wanted someone he could trust. This was a double door opening and it made all the difference for me. I have so much to thank him for.
But change is constant, and in time, we parted ways. That was about ten years ago. So, when Dave returned my call and invited me to lunch, I was very excited. I arrived at his office, and he immediately took me to his board room where there were pictures of his buildings and data center projects. He went on and on about what his company was doing and all the projects they had completed. I asked about his wife and kids. He talked a little about them but kept going back to his buildings and projects. Clearly, that was what he was most excited about. That is where his heart was (Matthew 6:21) And I felt a certain sadness for him.
Still, I remember feeling the same way as Dave about the projects and buildings that I had worked on or designed. I was so proud of that. When I was with my daughters driving around Seattle, I would point them out. “Dad! BORING!” They just didn’t understand. In later years, my oldest daughter became a property manager. Teasing me, she would go out of her way pointing out all the buildings she managed. Point taken.
As I got older (not that many years ago), I became preoccupied with legacy and having meaning in my life. The legacy of buildings and projects seemed hollow and meaningless. I began to wonder how I would be remembered. How do I want to be remembered? A faithful believer. A good husband, father, grandfather, friend. “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold.” Proverbs 22:1 (Ecclesiastes 7:1) And as someone who opens a door for others.