Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

by Brian Walsh

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

I know, I know, it’s a terribly overused phrase, and usually cheap in its application.

But there was something about the way I heard it this morning that caught my attention, and maybe even broke my heart.

Every second Tuesday of the month there is a short memorial service to remember those who have died homeless on the streets of Toronto. At noon, folks gather outside of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in downtown Toronto to read the names, and perhaps say a few words about those who have died that month.

They’ve been doing this for twenty-five years and the list has over six hundred names on it.

Six hundred!

And those are only the names of those who we know about!

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

The words came from a homeless man sitting with his buddy just a few feet from the board that lists the names of those six hundred departed neighbours. I was early and was just sitting nearby watching as these two guys were getting louder and louder as their bottle was getting emptier and emptier. I noticed that they were drinking whisky – no Listerine for these guys!

Well-heeled shoppers and office workers were treated to verbal abuse as they walked into the shopping centre beside the church.

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” the fellow shouted for all to hear. He was very angry. Or perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that he was fucking angry!

Angry enough that I had no inclination to approach him or to try to have a conversation with him. And angry enough and drunk enough that I’ll bet that in a more sober moment, in a moment where this man might have been able to come to himself, maybe even reflect on his life, he might not be too proud of his behaviour the other morning.

But then again, why should he care? He experiences his life as the refuse of our society. He is part of that dejected, rejected, neglected and disrespected underclass of our society that we just wish would go away.

Oh, did I mention that these two gentlemen were Aboriginal?

A couple of intoxicated Aboriginal men, surrounded by the symbols of power, privilege and wealth of the society that displaced their people aren’t too likely to give a flying fuck about being polite to anyone.

So I kept my distance, but sat in silent witness, knowing painfully enough my own complicity in their suffering.

I sat in witness as I waited to stand in witness with others in mournful solidarity with those who have died on our city streets.

When it came time for that moment of silence at our memorial, we were told that while there had been no deaths of homeless folks reported in the last month, it is highly likely that of the thousands of homeless neighbours in our city, someone had died in the last thirty days.

Our memorial concluded at 12.30pm. Within two hours, police were called to investigate a foul smell at a vacant business site a couple of kilometers away. The body that they found in a homeless squat had been rotting for some time.

I guess that there is another name that will need to be added to that memorial board.

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” the man shouted.

He has a good reason to be shouting.

Toronto Star Article

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian and the CRC Campus Minister at the University of Toronto. He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

2 Responses to “Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired”

  1. earning a prophet's wage

    Let me shout a sick and tired AMEN!!!

    And thanks to Brian. I have read some of your work. I discovered you after following N. T. Wright’s work in college. Colossians Remixed really jammed up my life. I never was more affected by any single book. It put me and that first century world Wright was talking about in the same frame with a sudden impact. I will never be the same.

    Blessings… from Texas

    Reply
  2. earning a prophet's wage

    More Brian Walsh posts…. please….

    🙂

    Thank you.

    Reply

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