When I think of the Neighborhood Service Organization, Dr. Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish comes to mind:
One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish… some are old and some are new. Some are sad, and some are glad… we see them come, we see them go. Some are fast. Some are slow… Not one of them is like another. Don’t ask us why, go ask your mother.
The Neighborhood Service Organization, and Bell Building in particular, has an exciting mix of interesting individuals. For some background information, there are 155 tenants and about 200 staff in the building. The majority of tenants are older black men who range from war veterans to previous factory workers and business owners. One must have a “disabling condition” to live it the Bell Building. Likewise, many tenants suffer from mental health problems and/or have physical disabilities. Because the NSO practices the Housing First model (first providing people with a home followed by a variety of support services), there is a strong drug culture at the Bell Building. Despite the spectrum of identities, most tenants are “expressively” religious, outgoing, and love soul and jazz music.
At first, I felt slightly uncomfortable interacting with the tenants. I was definitely in an unfamiliar environment with people from very different background than my own. However, once I started speaking with tenants, relationships and friendships began to form. It’s definitely an ongoing process to learn, observe, embrace, and interact with others from different backgrounds.
None of us are like the other. All of us are you-nique. That’s what makes this world beautiful.