Recognizing Charles Poland: Heroes around us

Maxton Thoman

There are heroes among us. Every day people clad in the same ordinary, mundane garb shared by the rest of us; no Superman “S” fixed to their chests. They are quiet and caring, dynamic and strong.

They lead ordinary lives but produce extraordinary results. All without asking for an ounce in return. No recognition befalls them. They merely step up to the plate when called upon.

A week ago today, one of those everyday, once-in-a-lifetime heroes was called up and gunned down, fighting for passionate students and fearless youth.

Charles Albert Poland, Jr., a true Alabama state and national hero, put himself in the line of fire between gunman and kidnapper Jimmy Lee Dykes and the students on his bus.

The students he loved. The students he protected daily. The students he would die protecting.

When Poland refused the gunman’s demand to take two students from his care, he paid the ultimate price.

Yet, while immortalized in the heroics and altruism that he exemplified at the end of his life, Charles Albert Poland, Jr. deserves to also be remembered and exalted for his everyday sacrifice, not solely his final one.

Poland was a hero in the highest of regards on Tuesday, Jan. 29, but he was a hero every day before that as well.

Pure and unadulterated altruism — like that which Poland displayed daily, and in the end — requires more intentional action and dynamic thought than it might originally suggest, allowing this easily misunderstood term to masquerade behind an unimposing façade.

As a result, the human condition can sometimes seem innately set on disregarding its duty to endeavor towards this unselfish devotion to the betterment of mankind, be it individually or globally.

However, it is this collective ignorance that we must identify and isolate, so as to ensure our own opposition in the face of this disregard. In the end, Poland’s memory should serve as a reminder, prompting us to strive daily toward the amelioration of ailments facing humanity, be they global strides or local impacts.

We too must struggle towards personal self-sacrifice and philanthropy. We too must try to be heroes in whatever capacity we find ourselves, if for nothing else than to act as an incredible example in the likeness of Poland.

It is imperative that we lead our lives in the footsteps of those before us, molding ourselves after our own everyday heroes – the doctors, teachers, firefighters, soldiers, students, parents, grandparents and everyday people that make the ordinary extraordinary.

Anyone can be Superman. It just depends on where you are and what you do when you are called upon.

For now, however, be sure to celebrate your heroes. Commend them for their efforts, and strive daily to emulate their likeness.

After all, Poland’s story is proof. There are heroes among us.

Maxton Thoman is a freshman majoring in biology. His column runs biweekly.

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