A homeless man died on New York City streets last Sunday after he had been stabbed while coming to the aid of a woman who was being attacked by a currently unidentified assailant.
What makes the death of Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax so tragic was the callousness and indifference of passers-by.
Surveillance video obtained by the New York Post, and posted with the article, Stabbed hero dies as more than 20 people stroll past him, shows Mr. Tale-Yax as he lay in a pool of blood for more than an hour, dying on the sidewalk while, as the Post wrote, "… nearly 25 people indifferently strolled past him."
Mr. Tale-Yax may have been one of NYC’s homeless population, but first and foremost he was a person. And – he was someone’s child.
That he came to the rescue of someone who was being accosted, is a clear indication that he had a sense of moral obligation to his fellow human beings; a personal responsibility to help those in need.
I don’t know how long Mr. Tale-Yax had been living on the streets of New York. But, because he was homeless, I’m willing to bet that many folks thought of him as being just another worthless lazy bum or someone who was nothing more than a drain on society.
Yet, he gave of himself in a way that not many could lay claim to: he gave his life in defense of someone else – a total stranger in need of help. And, I think it would be safe to say that the woman didn’t refuse his help simply because he was homeless. If anything, I’ll bet that she wholeheartedly welcomed his help.
More like as not, when Mr. Tale-Yax saw the woman being attacked, he didn’t pause to wonder about her social status as a way of deciding whether or not he should help her.
He probably didn’t wonder about her political affiliations or what her religious beliefs were. Most likely he didn’t think about whether the woman was housed or homeless; financially well-off or impoverished. He certainly didn’t ignore her need or look away and pretend she didn’t exist. Although, because he was homeless, it’s a strong probability that at one time or another, he had experienced being ignored by others in the community.
The irony is that in the last moments of his life, he was once again ignored by the community.
And that’s to the shame of us all.
Mr. Tale-Yax’s selfless actions speak volumes of his personal character.
In sharp contrast, the indifference of those who passed by and did nothing to help as he lay dying, screams loudly of their lack of moral character.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Homelessness does not define a person’s character.
Homelessness is a socio-economic condition that occurs when a person cannot afford to maintain housing of their own.
Personal character is not measured by what material possessions a person may or may not have, or whether they are housed or not.
A person may have an abundance of wealth and still be morally bankrupt.
Likewise, a person may lack housing, live in the most extreme manifestation of poverty and still have a heart of gold.
Because of his homelessness, some may have thought that Mr. Tale-Yax’s was a wasted life. His heroic actions proved otherwise. It also serves as proof that anyone – no matter what their social status – can make a difference.
Hopefully his death will be a reminder to all of us that each and every life has value – regardless of the circumstances.