I read a disturbing news article yesterday about Hugo Tale-Yax, a 31 year old Guatemalan homeless man living on the streets of New York. You may have heard about this as well. Hugo apparently came to the aid of a woman who was being mugged and ended up being stabbed several times in the chest with a knife. It was all captured on CCTV video. Here is the astonishing part. As Hugo lay on the street, his life bleeding out of him, not a single person that walked by stopped to help or bother to see what was wrong. It wasn’t until an hour after he collapsed in the sidewalk that emergency services were called.
During the hour he laid there several people passed by but no one stopped to see if they could help, maybe assuming he was just another drunk homeless man. At one point two men exit a nearby building and stand around him, one actually taking a photo of him with a mobile phone as he lay bleeding to death. There was time to take a photo but no time to place a simple call to 911 that may have saved a man’s life. It’s a tragic event that I think reflects our loss of connection with each other.
We may be more “connected” than ever before with our cell phones, texting and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter but yet we seem to have displaced our sense of community. We seem to have abandoned a sense of living for a common purpose and replaced it with a sense of hyper individualism. It’s now all about “me” and what “I” want and what “I” can gain and how things affect “me” and we no longer identify with something that is larger than ourselves.
Have our lives really become so burdened that we have hardened our hearts to the point of becoming so callous that we ignore a man bleeding to death on a city street? What was going through the minds of those that looked but just walked on by? Were they too busy to be bothered? Were they scared to get involved? Were they just grateful that it wasn’t them laying there on a cold cement sidewalk? Maybe they thought that someone else had already called 911. Is it just better to mind your own business? I don’t know. Perhaps the real failure is in our morals, or lack thereof.
Would those who walked by without offering a hand of help have done more if it were a family member laying there rather than a man perceived to be just another homeless drunk? How would you want others to respond if it were you lying on that cold sidewalk? Where has our sense of compassion for others gone? Have we become a nation of Cain’s who after murdering his brother and asked by God “Where is your brother Abel?” answered, “I know not, am I my brother’s keeper?” Like Cain have we really developed an unwillingness to accept responsibility for the welfare of those around us?
It’s Up To Us To Be A Hero
We don’t live in a void. The world doesn’t stop for us no matter how important we think we are. If we are to be known as a caring people and avoid tragic events like the death of Hugo Tale-Yax then we must rebuild our sense of community. We must accept responsibility for the welfare of others and we must regain a sense of compassion for those that are disadvantaged, suffering and crying out for help. We must uphold our moral standing and sense of justice. To do any less means that we have not only failed those around us but we’ve failed ourselves.
We all love a good hero story. You see the theme in movies, books and TV shows. It’s the kind of stuff that makes us feel good inside. It seems though that we prefer the hero to be someone else. When we get the chance to be a hero we find a million different excuses as to why we can’t wear that hat. I am optimistic that Hugo is an isolated case; that the people that walked by that day without offering a helping hand are an exception to what most of us believe to be the right thing to do. I’m optimistic that presented with the same circumstances we would choose to be the hero that Hugo Tale-Yax was.
Click here for the article a reported by The Guardian