Back in prison, Moore wishes Wes a happy 32nd birthday, but Wes admits he almost forgot about the day altogether. Walking into Jessup Correctional Facility, Moore is reminded of the “daily miracle of my freedom.” He watches the other inmates during visitation, one of whom is meeting his baby for the first time. Wes asks him when he first felt like he’d become a man; Moore responds that it was when he first felt “accountable to people other than myself.” He then reflects on this answer, realizing that he’s not sure when exactly that was. He admits that for some people, maturity comes more gradually, whereas for others adult responsibility is such a sudden and jarring event that it throws their lives off course. Wes concurs, arguing that being responsible for others can be difficult and “unforgiving.” He points out that both he and Moore made mistakes when they were younger and both received second chances—but that second chances are only meaningful when external circumstances also change. Moore agrees, concluding that sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between “second chances and last chances.”
Perhaps more than any other point in the book, this interlude directly addresses the question of how the two Wes Moores’ destinies came to be so different from one another. As Wes points out, both men made mistakes, and both faced adversity. And while it’s true that Wes arguably had a much tougher experience overall than Moore, this alone seems insufficient in explaining how the two men’s lives diverged so drastically. As Moore argues, everyone gets second chances to some extent. Yet if there are no resources to properly turn your life around, what does a second chance really mean other than another opportunity to fail? The emphasis on maturity in this conversation is also significant. More privileged people are given an ample period in which to make mistakes, learn, and grow; Wes was not so lucky.