April 4, 2016
“How much did he leave?” He left it all…
It’s an old quip; no one claims it as original (including me). It’s the one-liner that captures a fact that is replayed, over and over in real-time: some of life’s metrics cease to hold meaning at death; there are other metrics which have even more meaning after death.
We would have missed Dennis Erickson – and his story – but for a metric that was important to no one but him.
Mr. Erickson was a retired engineer, a never-married bachelor, with no children. He was an usher at Celebration Church in Lakeville, Minnesota, and served in that role on Sunday mornings. He died just before Christmas; he was only 69. He left his home – and its contents – to the church.
Lisa Lundstrom, the church CFO – and daughter of its founders – went to Erickson’s home after his burial, and was deeply impacted: “I was overwhelmed.” In the modest house was Erickson’s model car collection: 30,000 of them, filling the house floor-to-ceiling, and on every wall.
He started his stash when he was nine; for the next 60 years, he fastidiously documented and preserved every detail about every tiny car he collected. In his garage were his “real cars:” the Model-T Ford, the ’59 Edsel and the ’66 Rambler, but the real measure-of-accomplishment were the models.
Scouring antique shops, car shows and the internet, he had more model cars than days of life. “He would sit and polish those cars every day. It was his passion,” says Lundstrom. “He took better care of these little cars than people take care of people in their lives…”
Erickson was an only child who lived in the house with his parents until they both passed away. He saved and catalogued thousands of auto brochures and meticulously logged his every car encounter. Lundstrom found a bottle of car polish next to the framed copy of his church membership certificate in the living room.
The value of his collection – now for-sale by the church – and his home is estimated to be $500,000; once sold, the money will be used for the church children’s ministry.
In business, a metric often appraised is the “opportunity cost:” the gain that was missed in an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain objective. It is the benefit you could have received by taking an alternative action. The value of Erickson’s model car obsession – amassed over 60 years – was $500,000. What was his Opportunity Cost? What could he/should he have done, instead?
Jesus, to the 12 Apostles, to Dennis Erickson, and to you and me: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John 15:16).
The only metric in my life that matters to God is “fruit that will last:” that’s people, who are eternal, impacted through our efforts regarding their eternal destiny. Investing life – discretionary time, unique capabilities, relational influence and financial resources – in that pursuit is the place where “the rubber meets the road” for the Christian who knows that life here – and, what we do on our way to heaven – matters greatly to God, and should hold equal gravity for us.
“How much did he leave?” He left it all. What a tragedy.
My desired epitaph – and, what I hope to encourage to anyone listening to me – is in stark contrast:
“How much did he leave?” Not much; he sent most of it ahead…