"It's just not fair, Mom!"
My son, Matt, sat with his head in his hands, despairing over events in his life that turned his world upside down. Although I have heard these words from the lips of my children before, they weren't words uttered by a child angered with childhood misfortune. Instead, my son was learning a very adult, extremely difficult reality of life.
Sometimes, life isn't fair.
Up until now, Matt felt he had the world by the tail. He'd been out on his own for a few years. He met the woman of his dreams. He proposed to her and they will marry after her graduation from college. He worked hard and has obtained increasingly responsible jobs with increasingly better pay. He bought his own home last spring and a new truck several months later. At age 23, Matt had big plans for his life and everything seemed to be going his way.
But sometimes, life just isn't fair.
In August, Matt got a new job. Although he enjoyed his previous job in Livermore, he was excited to call an end to the long daily commute. Just three weeks into the new job, the first of a series of misfortune struck.
Matt fell from a ladder while working, breaking both wrists.
Painful? Yes. The end of the world? Not really. Matt's young and resilient, and his injuries could have been much worse. This was a minor setback and in a few weeks, after recovering, he knew he'd be back at work.
Or so he thought.
Two weeks later, he was fired from his job. A few weeks after that, the worker's compensation disability payments stopped suddenly, without explanation.
Arms still in their casts, Matt was without work, without an income and physically unable to look for work in an increasingly bad job market.
Reality came crashing down on him. Home improvements that he began prior to his injury sat half finished. He had a mortgage and payments on a truck that he couldn't make. Groceries were running out. His checking account balance began to dwindle to an alarmingly low level. He was gripped with fear and uncertainty.
Yes, sometimes life isn't fair. In fact, sometimes it downright stinks.
Matt's learning some painfully tough lessons about life: Nothing in life is certain. There are unscrupulous employers out there. You can't rely on the law or attorneys as a remedy to unfair, immoral or illegal actions. When life hands you lemons, you can make lemonade, but you can't sell enough lemonade to pay the bills.
But the most important lesson of all? There is nothing more valuable than family and friends.
Matt's family and his friends have rallied around him since his accident. They are being supportive - both emotionally and financially. Despite the much-welcomed support and full recovery from his injuries, the future looms uncertainly before him. He worries that he'll never gain control of a life that seems to be spiraling out of control. But I have faith in him.
You see, Matt is no stranger to adversity. He struggled with learning disabilities throughout his school years, but graduated from high school with a 3.2 GPA and awards for his photographic skill. He has learned to live with and work around tremors that cause his hands to shake uncontrollably and which go unnoticed by many. In the past, he has fought adversity and won. And he will win again.
Matt is a bright, energetic, and hard-working young man. I know that there is a plan for his life and it is unfolding before him.
It's tough for me to see him struggle, so I encourage him to be proactive - the perfect job, the perfect employer, the perfect career is out there waiting for him. Yes, the job market is tough. But it's equally tough for employers who are hiring - employers often find a lack of work ethic among the young, and finding applicants that can pass drug testing is tough. I tell him what employers face and I tell him that I know the right employer will recognize his potential - he's a loyal, respectful young man who wants nothing more than to make his way in the world.
Matt is learning about the ups and downs of life. But there's another lesson that Matt is in the process of learning: Tough times don't last, but tough people do.
And Matt's tough - just ask anyone who knows him. And, in time, he'll understand that too.
Theresa Larson is the Lodi News-Sentinel's administration manager. She is married and the mother of five children. Her column appears the first and third Wednesday of the month. She can be contacted at 125 N. Church St., (209) 369-2761 or via e-mail.