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Are You a Zero or a Hero?

There’s an old saying that life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we respond. Who says that you have to be disappointed about your problems and failures? Who says you can’t look at them in a way that makes you stronger? This story is about a young burn victim who gets a lesson in perspective from his doctor.

7-year-old Darren stood beside his hospital bed, glumly looking out the window. It was a sunny day, and he could see a few people relaxing on benches or walking around. As he observed the outdoors, he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the window. He scowled at what he saw and tried to focus on the water fountain that was several stories below.

The door opened, and in walked Dr. Cary.

“Hey, Darren,” he said brightly. The boy glanced at the man, then wordlessly turned his attention back to the window. “How are you feeling today?” The doctor heard an intelligible reply as he sat on a chair across from his patient.

“When you gonna fix me?” Darren asked after a long pause, not looking away from the window.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to fix you for another few days.”

The frustrated boy sighed and intentionally checked his reflection in a nearby mirror.

Darren’s house caught fire several nights ago. Upon being rescued, he rushed back inside to retrieve his baby brother. In the process, Darren’s face and right arm were badly burned. Before the fire, he had lots of hair. The fire burned most of it off, and the little that remained was cut by the doctors. Part of his right ear was also burned.

Dr. Cary prepared for yet another day of moping from the child. It was then he noticed the Avengers action figures on Darren’s food tray. “You like superheroes, huh?”

“Uh-huh,” Darren mumbled.

“Any favorites?”

“Iron Man. Incredible Hulk. Batman.”

The doctor nodded and asked, “Do you ever pretend to be a superhero?”


“What if I told you you ARE a superhero?”

“Superheroes ain’t real. They’re only on TV. I don’t even look like a superhero. I look more like a monster.”

“Incredible Hulk looks like a monster. He’s a superhero, isn’t he?”

Darren said nothing.

“You saved a baby’s life. that makes you a superhero. You even have the battle scars to prove it.”

Darren finally turned around and looked at Dr. Cary in wonder. “Battle scars?”

“Yes. Superheroes often come home with the scars of a big fight. It proves that they had a tough battle, but they were tougher. You were tougher than the fire. You were even tougher than the big firefighters who had their super suits and gadgets on.”

Darren let that perspective sink in for a moment, then nodded. “The firemen didn’t want my parents to go back in for Brian.”

“See? And Brian is okay, right? Because of you?”

“Yeah,” Darren replied with a hint of a smile.

“See? You ARE a superhero.”

Darren’s mind rushed to think of more comparisons to superheroes.

“I just realized: a bunch of superheroes got their powers by accident.”

“There you go. Your house was on fire by accident.”

“And… I became a superhero because of that accident.”


Darren had a full smile at this point.

“When Brian gets older, he’ll look up to you the way you look up to Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, and Batman. But there’s just one difference.”

“What? What’s the difference?”

“Those superheroes are only on TV. Brian has a real life superhero for a brother. While his friends show off their action figures, he can show you off to his friends and tell them all about how his hero rescued him.”

Darren grinned, picturing his brother bragging to other kids about being rescued by a real life superhero.

Dr. Cary was pleased to see his patient wear a noticeable smile for the first time since meeting him. His pager soon went off.

"Glad to see you feeling better, Darren." The boy nodded, maintaining his grin. "Now then, the Doc Signal is going off, so I'm off to rescue some more patients. Nice talking to you." He reached out, and the child shook his hand.

As the doctor left, Darren laid there feeling much happier about his looks.

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