Opportunities to learn

It’s easy to forget that a single moment in time can have a big impact on a person.

That’s one of the lessons that was shared by Matthew Charles.

Charles, the first person to be released from prison under the First Step Act, delivered an interesting talk Oct. 23 when he appeared as part of the Herald-Star Speaker Series. He offered a detailed version of his life story, which has come full circle from a conviction and 35-year prison sentence on cocaine and weapons charges, to experiencing a change in his life, to fighting to ensure that others don’t face unnecessarily long sentences in the future.

He credited faith with helping to turn his life around. Charles explained that when a man he had known in prison was released, the one-time fellow prisoner had left him what he had at the time.

It was a collection that included some personal care items and a Bible, which he started to read.

That led Charles on a course that included more than 30 Bible study classes and resulted in him becoming a mentor and law clerk, helping his fellow prisoners navigate the legal system and becoming an advocate for change in our nation’s prison system.

God opened the door and gave him a platform for speaking for those who are still incarcerated, Charles said while speaking to those gathered in the Steubenville High School Auditorium.

Today, Charles works with the Washington, D.C.-based Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and among their goals is to make sure that any punishment handed down fits the crime that was committed.

Each of the speakers in the series — Charles was the 10th — has offered food for thought to those who have attended. Each also has enjoyed his or her visit to our community.

Charles found the City of Murals Project to be interesting, and he enjoyed learning a little about the city’s history. He paused to capture a photograph of the portion of the Ohio River valley which is visible from the overview that lies next to the Steelworker statue on Fourth Street, right across from what is now the back of the Main Branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.

Part of that condensed history lesson included a quick stop at Historic Fort Steuben and lunch at Naples Spaghetti House, which gave him the chance to meet several area residents.

We sometimes forget that while those who come to town to speak offer something to those who attend the presentations, we, in turn, are able to offer the speakers a glimpse at what makes our community special — something they are able to carry with them.

There invariably are two comments that come from just about everyone who attends our presentations. The first is a thank you for continuing to bring these programs to town. The second is, “Who’s next?” And, while it’s too early to say for sure, our committee and sponsors are in the process of gathering names of potential speakers, with an eye on returning with a presentation in the spring.

Whoever that next person is, we’re certain that the story he or she shares will be compelling, and will make you think about the world that is all around and the moments in life that make a big difference for every one of us.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)