A publication in Georgia recently shared the story of Brooks Tuck, a Baptist minister turned educator during the civil rights movement. By 1966, Tuck was principal at a white elementary school in segregated Henry County south of Atlanta. When the courts ordered the system to integrate, Tuck volunteered his school, described by historian Jim Cofer as “the most rundown of Henry County’s white schools.” To say Tuck’s decision was met with anger was an understatement as the school received death threats, crank calls and bomb scares.

Yet, 13 Black families decided to send their kids to Tuck’s school, as Cofer described: “As the bus carrying the 13 children arrived at Fairview Elementary School, an angry mob of white protesters lined the street to the school. The Black children were afraid. Insulted and threatened by the crowd, Brooks made his way to the bus, stepped into it, welcomed the children and told them, ‘We are going to get through this together.’ ” Then he took each child’s hand and escorted each into the school and its safety inside. As time passed, things got better. Tuck, a modest man, didn’t talk about it for years.

But the story, captured in the children’s book Mr. Tuck and the 13 Heroes by Furman University math professor John Harris, didn’t end there. Years later as Tuck was sick and hospitalized, he floated in and out of consciousness. He noticed, however, an African American nurse who spent a lot of time near his bedside. Cofer related that Tuck asked why she didn’t go home to her family: “She replied, ‘Mr. Tuck, you don’t know me, but I sure do know you. You held my hand and walked me to my first day at Fairview Elementary. You didn’t leave me on that day, and I’m not leaving you. We’re going to get through this together.’ ” 

One story; two heroes. You might think we need more heroes — and we do. But fortunately, they’re not too hard to find. You just have to look, and you’ll find them working at a school, in a hospital, at a church or in a bakery in Ukraine making free bread for people in a living hell brought on by a despotic villain. They’re driving police cars and fire trucks. They’re soldiers fighting for freedom. And they’re people running organizations that send aid to hungry or war-torn countries. And finally, they appear before Senate committees on the way to confirmation to a federal court, despite hyper-partisan jackals filled with poisonous rhetoric designed to inflame, not inform.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “As you get older, it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.”

Find the heroes that surround your life. Emulate people like Brooks Tuck, who died in 2012, so we can all do better. And thank them for what they do.

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