When I was in the library the other day, Lost December was one of the books on the display as you come into the library. The library staff pick out books from its collection and displays them up front as a way to encourage people to read books that they may not normally see when they are looking for books.
With that being said, Lost December is a modern tale of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The main character, Luke, leads a sheltered, yet full life. Working at his father’s business from age twelve, he quickly advances to be a very astute manager in the family's national business chain.
After college, Luke planned to take over the business he knew so well, but his father insisted that he attend graduate school first. The goal was not only to receive an advanced degree, but to “see the world.”
Luke goes to Wharton and lives away from home for the first time. He becomes friends with several people and is introduced to "the world" rather quickly. Many of the lessons he learned and life experiences he gained were painful and unfortunate. Some were his choice (excessive drinking) while others (like the death of a good friend) were not in his control.
Graduating, and with a million dollar trust fund, he returns home to tell his father he does not want to return to run his business. Rather, he wants to “see the world” by traveling with his college friends. This is devastating news to his father, who subsequently retires (though maintains a majority of shares in the company) and has a triple bypass surgery.
So, Luke goes on an extravagent European tour with his "friends." Luke, although "book smart," is still naive and basically pays for not only his trip, but those of his companions. Almost immediately, Luke's traveling companions lavishly indulge themselves with money that is not theirs to spend. Expensive meals, hotel rooms, and gambling become the norm.
Up to and including this point in the story, I am having a very difficult time identifying with Luke or his friends. Staying in $4,000 per night rooms, buying extraordinarily expensive meals...it's just not something I've ever done or can even comprehend.
To me, that's such an incredibly wasteful way of living. If I had that kind of money, I would want to help others, the environment, or animals. Think of how many people that $4,000 could feed...or what that could do to help a family who is struggling...or how much land could be preserved for generations to come. So many ways to make a difference.
Anyways, I almost put down the book because I was having such a hard time finding anything in common with the story. However, I'm glad that I didn't.
Within a short period, Luke finds out that his entire trust fund is gone. He and his friends have wasted all the money; and now he is broke and - literally - homeless.
Luke's girlfriend (who he was going to propose to on the trip) left him because she didn't want to struggle to survive. She didn't want to have to watch her money or clip coupons. In essence, she liked Luke more for his money than for who he was as a person.
This is when Lost December starts to become more meaningful. The author shows the impact of Luke's decisions; and how he went from a riches to rags story. Then, through hard work, describes how Luke overcomes being homeless.
I have learned that if you have something to eat,
a roof overhead and clean water,
you should be most grateful -
you number among the world's most blessed.
(Quote from Lost December)
As Luke said at the beginning of the book, "It has been said that sometimes the greatest hope in our lives is juts a second chance to do what we should have done right in the first place. This is the story of my second chance."
Truly, one can understand after reading Lost December how difficult it must be to get out of being homeless and/or poverty. The challenges and obstacles that are placed in the way of those struggling to survive and to make ends meet are accurately described.
As the book said, "The world only offers you what you don't need....You can't get a bank loan until you can prove you don't need it, and it's tough to get a job if you don't already have one."
The story also shows the difference that a person can make in another person's life, particularly someone who is in need of help. Taking a risk, reaching out to provide some assistance, can make all the difference in the world to someone who is stuck...for whatever reason. A lift up and out...such a simple concept with far-reaching impact.
Lost December is a very believable story that reminds us all that life is not just fun and games. Sometimes the best things you receive in this world are those for which you work. And, even more important than work and success, is love and family.