Lisa and I had just finished debriefing our World Race squad and decided to go on a walk. It was midnight in Athens, Greece, and we were a few miles away from our hotel.
I was hard at work, trying to distract my bride because I wanted to get a jump on getting my 10,500 steps in for the day! (Noah, Tom Davis, Chris Scott and a few others have the App “Stepz” and are in an unspoken competition on our daily steps)!
After a mile or so, Lisa realized what I was doing. She lovingly punched my shoulder and demanded a taxi. After all, it was after midnight, and Athens is not the safest city in the world, so I flagged a cab for us.
The driver was in his early seventies and spoke fairly good English. Of course, I asked him about his life and how long he had been driving taxis. He told us about his wife, waiting at home and his three children, now all in their forties.
When I asked how many grandchildren he had, he pulled the car over. He looked over his shoulder and into the back seat and asked me, “Are you a grandfather?” I said, “Yes, I am, and she is almost three!”
What he did next brought tears to our eyes.
This old Greek cab driver started clapping very fast and loudly. He looked back at me again, this time with a tear in his eye and said, “You are a grandfather?! You have a grand-baby?! You are so blessed. God must love you very much!!”
Lisa and I were both a bit stunned, and I asked, “Are you not a grandfather yet?” In a broken voice, he said, “Oh no, we don’t get to be grandfathers in Greece any more. Our kids cannot afford children, so they don’t even get married; my two sons are still single and my daughter is married but will never have a child.”
I placed my hand on his shoulder and asked him if I could pray. Although a bit uncomfortable he said, “Yes, please pray for me to be a grandfather one day like you!” After we prayed, he drove us quietly to our hotel. As we were getting out of the taxi he said, “Thank you, I am so glad I picked you up tonight. I am so happy for you both to be grandparents!”
Lisa and I smiled, and he drove away.
The next morning on the way to the airport, a much younger gentleman in his forties picked us up. Of course, after wrestling through the night with my conversation in the other taxi, I asked him how long he had been driving taxis and how many children he had.
He said, “I have been driving this cab for nine years now. I was a very successful travel agent, but when our economy fell, we lost everything. I have a three year-old son, and a nine year-old daughter, but I never see them. I drive this taxi seven days a week, sixteen hours a day and I never take a break. I have not seen my wife or children for more than a few minutes in many years. And, that will never change.”
I pressed in on why he thought it would never change and why he simply did not get another job so he could see his kids.
As Americans, we are sometimes very naive and even stupid. In hindsight, for me to even ask the question was absurd.
We live in a country of opulence, opportunity, and choices. One of the major problems facing this generation is the over-abundance of choices. Often when I sit down with Millennials, I see the paralysis caused by the number of choices before them.
On the flip-side, the tragedy of Europe and the reality of what they live in is both real and tragic. What I have come to notice traveling between Europe and America: is that the US is following in those same footsteps.
The common thread between Europe and many American Millennials is complete and total apathy— a direct result of too many choices, coupled with a lack of passion for commitment to something, then compounded into a lack of hope in their own futures and the hope of their country.
Those two taxi rides in Athens, followed by Lisa and my subsequent trip to the States has reminded me: we are fighting a much bigger and familiar fight than most of us realize.