It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.

For Charlie C., he was golden from grade school on. He was a winner with his parents, his teachers and his classmates. He collected awards like most kids collected baseball cards. Charlie C. received a scholarship to an Ivy League college and went straight through graduate school without the hint of a hiccup.

He had a great job, a marriage with two perfect kids, a home in a Chicago suburb and another in Florida. Dickens couldn’t have scripted it any better.

Not so for Charlie P. He went to the same high school as Charlie C., but after that, Charlie P. entered the worst of times and an age of foolishness. He barely made it through high school. He moved around a lot, becoming streetwise but picking up a serious drug habit at the same time. He drifted in and out of jobs, apartments and relationships. Charlie P. did foolish things, illegal things, and they eventually caught up with him.

By the time Charlie C. was being promoted to VP of a Fortune 50 company, Charlie P. was still looking for answers to his life problems in Nevada, then Alaska. Charlie P.’s drug use, poor choices and bad luck followed him like his shadow. His charm, good looks and youthful body gradually faded as Charlie P. moved from his thirties into his forties.

Then one day, Charlie P. figured it out. He was in another jail, in one of the Southwestern states, and coming down from a major binge. He was feeling lousy. He decided he was tired of taking shortcuts and blaming others. And, for the first time in Charlie P.’s rugged life, he asked for help, and then forgiveness.

The same wounds and hurts Charlie P. had suffered through became motivators for positive change. He reconnected with the positive influences of his life that had always been there. He bravely walked away from the self-defeating temptations that had befuddled him for decades. Charlie P. was on the mend and on the rise. He turned to a career of helping foster kids and, boy, did he shine. It was becoming the best of times, an age of wisdom.

I was in the same high school class as these two Charlies and I recently had an opportunity to sit between them during our 50th high school reunion. I was so proud and appreciative to know both individuals.

But there was something really special about that Charlie P.