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Daniel James This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   What are some of the qualifications for a hero? Should a hero be exceptionallysmart or unusually strong? Should he or she go to the ends of the earth to saveor help a person? While Superman and Batman are among the most well-knownsuperheroes, it takes more than bodily strength to inspire and influence someonein the real world.

That is where my friend Dan comes in. He is not youreveryday, average Dan, as his uniqueness and creativity run much deeper. He is myhero for numerous reasons.

Daniel James was born in 1976. He was diagnosedearly on with a form of Muscular Dystrophy that causes muscle weakness anddeterioration which worsens with age. For the first few years, Dan could walkwithout a problem. Even when he received his first wheelchair at the age of five,he didn't let it stop him from being a normal kid. He attended public schooluntil his sophomore year of high school and was a social butterfly. He occupiedhis time with drawing, following sports and hanging out with his friends - alltypical events in a boy's childhood. He was one of the first children in theBoston area to use an electric wheelchair and took part in a local telethon tobenefit the MD Association.

But that's as typical as Dan gets. I met himin a most peculiar way. We were talking about sports in an on-line chat room andsoon found out we had a lot more in common than just basketball. His sociablenature and humorous personality put me at ease right away and we grew to be bestfriends.

We're so close that we think the same thoughts on a regularbasis. He tells me quirky sayings like, "I'm not as think as you dumb I am" andshares his dream of being a "sit-down" comic (as opposed to a stand-up one). He'sable to draw pictures on the computer using a voice-activated program and his waywith words makes him author-potential.

Dan inspires me because he rarelysees the downside of any situation. Even though he is no longer able to draw andhas little movement in his body from the neck down, he chooses to focus on thepositive aspects of life. His uncanny way of dealing with things makes him wisebeyond his years. He does not focus on things that cannot be changed and looks athis disability differently than one might think. His philosophy is "Everyone hasproblems, and this is mine." Sometimes it's a wonder that someone as bright andspecial as he is should have any problems.

Daniel James is one of the mosthilarious, helpful and unselfish people I have ever met. Whenever I am having aproblem or am not feeling well, his razor-sharp sense of humor can get a laughout of me and cheer me up. When I want to rant, Dan's always there to listen.What's more, he sincerely cares about what I have to say and always offersadvice. It's funny because he calls me his therapist, yet I am the one who isalways looking for his support. He does anything and everything to help me out ormake me feel better - and he knows I try to do the same for him.

If youever get the chance to meet Daniel James, I know that he is one person you willnever ever forget. His presence has left an imprint in my heart and mind thatwill never diminish. The next time you look up the credentials of a hero,remember it's the overlooked ones who turn out to be the mostqualified.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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