Heartwarming or Depressing? How Pandemic Stories Aren’t What They Seem

Nurses in a hospital ICU room with a Covid-19 patient

Nurses in a hospital ICU room with a Covid-19 patient

Debbie Lawhead, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Stephany Hume in her hospital bed teaching class

Throughout the pandemic, there have been countless “heartwarming” stories that have come out, but once you look past the headline and look at the hard truth of the story, they are anything but heartwarming.

Many of these pandemic stories are centered around someone who does their job while sick with Covid or someone helping out others affected by the pandemic.

In mid-November, a teacher recorded a class from her hospital bed and news outlets were quick to name this an inspirational story. Stephany Hume is a two-time cancer survivor and teacher. After surgery, Hume had to film a video for her class, from her hospital bed, to help keep students from falling behind while recovering from the surgery she just had. Hume told her local NBC affiliate, “I had put off going to the doctor because I didn’t want to miss anything. It turns out I had to have surgery.”

Once this story came out, many were left calling her a hero and a true inspiration. Rather than this being inspirational, the story is tragic. A teacher put off her own health needs to teach, and once she did attend to them, she was left without help and had to teach a class rather than rest. Not only did this show her students the lack of aid and compassion the school system has, but also served as an example of how poor and flawed our health care system really is.

Henry Darby in the school hallway

Another example of a tragic story covered up as inspirational is Henry Darby’s story. Darby is a high school principal in South Carolina. He began to realize how many of the students weren’t doing okay financially. In order to help out, Darby got a part-time job at Walmart, from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. in which he stocked shelves. After his night-time job at Walmart, he went back to his day job as principal. All of his earnings from Walmart went towards the students in need.

Many found this story inspirational and even donated to help the cause. While it’s undeniable that Henry Darby’s heart was in the right place and that he did something very respectable, the whole situation just doesn’t sit right. A man was working all day and night just trying to help some kids make it through the month.

Everyone seemed to overlook how exhausting that must have been for Darby. Besides the exhausting schedule and struggle Darby went through, it also highlights the horrible economic system in America. The horrible truth is that people can’t access the resources and help they need and instead have to hope somebody will come along and be willing to lend a helping hand. Just underneath the caring and kindhearted intent Henry Darby had, lies the hard truth of the problems so many lower-class people face.

Screenshot of a news article from CNN

Yet another smiling family picture is shown just below the headline for a news story. This headline reads “Texas teen Alondra Carmona is giving up her entire college savings to help pay for her mom’s rent and prevent her being evicted.” How this ever came off as heartwarming is unclear. A young woman, only 18 years old, is left having to give up her college savings to keep her mom off the streets because landlords and employers can’t find it in their hearts to help anyone out during a global pandemic. During this pandemic, an estimated 9.2 million renters who have lost income during the pandemic are behind on rent, according to a December 2020 analysis of Census data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (sourced from CNN).

Alondra Carmona high school graduation pictures

During this pandemic, it’s clear people are desperate for some good news. While being in need of a happy story is completely understandable, naming stories that only point out the deep-rooted problems in America is anything but a happy story. No matter how kindhearted someone was or what good intentions they had, having to risk your life, sacrifice an important part of your life, or exhaust yourself to help others isn’t the stuff of a happy or inspiring story.