The Third Floor

There have been many Divine Breadcrumbs in my life and I’ve been grateful for all of them. Of course, I didn’t always recognize the gift until much later.

This was the case with an apartment I had in the late 90s through the early 2000s. My relationship was on its last legs and I had just started a new job. It was an extremely stressful time. I lived in a city which, at the time, was not a desirable place to live. However, it was what we could afford and my daughter, Chloe, had cousins who went to the same school. The town was filled with 2 and 3-family homes. Street after street was filled with tall, boxy multi-family homes. I wanted so badly to live in one of the nicer neighborhoods. We looked at several apartments all over the city. The ones I liked were too expensive and the ones we could afford were depressing and just plain scary. I was starting to lose hope when I saw an ad for a 3-bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor of a 3-family home. It was located on what was referred to as “the avenues.” We went to meet with the owners.

I remember when we first met Dan and Mary (not their real names). They appeared to be in their late 50s. Dan’s hair was completely white even though, relatively speaking, he wasn’t old. He had a friendly welcoming face. Mary, on the other hand, had a pinched, worried expression. She had short reddish-brown curly hair and her mouth was a tight, slightly up-turned line. After we introduced ourselves, they explained that they lived on the first floor, a woman named Paula lived on the second floor (and had for many years), and that the 3rd floor had just been re-done. We ascended the 3 flights of stairs and I remember thinking “this will be a real pain when I’m carrying groceries.” But when I entered the apartment, my snarky attitude fell away. The front door led right into the kitchen, which had big wooden cabinets with old-fashioned hardware. The walls had been newly wall-papered with a pattern reminiscent of something you would see in an old farmhouse, pale greens, pinks, and cream. I liked it immediately.

I could hear the sirens, faint and first and then much louder. Suddenly I could hear multiple heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. I don’t remember much of what happened next.

There were 3 bedrooms off the kitchen as well as a small bathroom. The living room was beyond the kitchen separated by a heavy wooden door. From the living room, another door led out to a porch that overlooked the front of the house. The fact that all 3 bedrooms opened to the kitchen seemed a little strange to me, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker. Each bedroom was a different color. The first bedroom was papered with off-white wallpaper with a pattern so subtle and light I wondered why they didn’t simply use paint. It was a small corner room with a light blue carpet and 2 windows on adjacent walls. The middle bedroom had a masculine feel with a brown carpet, tan wallpaper, and a border with a vintage map design. The third bedroom had yellow walls and a bright green carpet. I imagined Chloe in the yellow room as it was bright and cheery.

We felt like we had hit the jackpot! The street was quiet and felt safe.

The living room didn’t have carpeting and Dan and Mary explained that we could pick any color carpet we wanted and they would pay to have it installed. I kept thinking “I want to live here” but tried to keep my excitement under wraps. Dan and Mary then took us to the basement to show us the laundry hook-ups. There was also a locked storage area for each unit. We then went outside to look at the yard. It was summer-time and the lawn was a lush green and very well kept. There was a detached garage with 3 bays. Each apartment was assigned one space. I should mention at this point that it was extremely rare to find 3-family homes with a yard, let alone a garage. We felt like we had hit the jackpot! The street was quiet and felt safe. I silently prayed that they would rent the apartment to us.

Dan and Mary let us know that they were showing the apartment to a few other people but would be in touch either way. We said our goodbyes and hoped for the best. A few days later we got the call that the apartment was ours. We moved in on one of the hottest days of the summer. Not one person offered to help with the move, even though my ex-husband had helped numerous people move over the years. I watched as he angrily lifted a couch by himself. To this day I don’t know how he did it. It must have been pure adrenaline from his anger. He had to practically beg a “friend” from work to help. We made countless trips up and down the 3 flights of stairs, huffing and puffing in the oppressive humidity. Every once in a while I’d catch Mary looking out the window at us, that same worried expression on her face.

Dan and Mary loved Chloe immediately. Chloe went downstairs to visit with them often. I was grateful that she felt so comfortable with them and that they were so kind to her. Only a few months after we moved in, my ex-husband’s drug addiction had reared its ugly head again and I asked him to leave. Once he was gone, life started to get better for both Chloe and me. Because the rent was so reasonable, I was able to afford the apartment on my own. Dan and Mary kindly offered to watch Chloe in the morning before school as I had a long commute and had to leave very early. They refused to take any money even though they gave her breakfast and made sure she got to school safely. I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was.

When Chloe entered middle school, because of the start time, I was able to drop her off on my way to work. Even though Chloe was getting older, she would still visit Dan and Mary. They were like family. She also visited with their daughter, Ellen, who had moved into the 2nd-floor apartment. One night in February of 2003, after saying goodnight to Chloe, I headed to get ready for bed. I went into the bathroom to wash my face and sneezed. Suddenly blood starts gushing from my nose. I instinctively knew that this was no ordinary nose-bleed. I called to Chloe in a panic. Poor Chloe. The bathroom looked like a murder scene—blood everywhere. It wouldn’t stop and I was starting to feel faint. I screamed “call 9-1-1!” She did and then ran out the door. She had run downstairs to get Ellen. She knew Ellen was a nurse and had the wherewithal to get immediate help.

I was on the bathroom floor, holding a wad of tissues to my nose in vain as the blood continued to gush when Ellen came running in. She immediately became calm and told Chloe it was ok. She told me to try and pinch my nose. I tried but it wasn’t working. I was getting more panicked. I could hear the sirens, faint and first and then much louder. Suddenly I could hear multiple heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. I don’t remember much of what happened next. I do remember that, while in the ambulance, someone was holding my nose shut and it hurt. I could feel the pressure building up in my ears and I was terrified that my eardrums would rupture. In the emergency room, it took 3 people to hold me down as they inflated a small balloon in my nostril to stop the bleeding. It turned out that a blood vessel had burst. During all of this, Dan and Mary took care of Chloe. I was weak for several days and Dan and Mary checked on me regularly.

I often think back to that day. I think about how lucky I was to have lived in that little 3rd-floor apartment and that I had landlords who treated us like family. In the 6 years we lived there, they never raised the rent-not even once. Because of their generosity, I was able to save money and purchase my first home. I was able to give Chloe a better life. But I will never forget that little apartment, a place where I found myself again, gaining the emotional and mental strength to get my life back on track. Sadly, over the years, Chloe and I lost track of Dan and Mary.

I truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason. I don’t think they’ll ever know the effect they had on mine. I’m sending gratitude to them today—wherever they may be.


Carol Campos
Carol Campos
Like many, I struggled for years wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I had been working in the corporate world for over 20 years, most recently in a leadership role with a Fortune 5 company. Although I was consistently recognized and promoted throughout my career, I somehow knew that I was meant to do something different. I felt stuck in a life that didn’t fit, yet I had created it. What was my purpose? I had no idea. Finally, I left my corporate job and made the leap into the unknown. After doing months of self-discovery work (actually, play!), reconnecting to my higher wisdom, and re-remembering who I was at my core, I realized I didn’t have to fix myself. I also realized that I didn’t have to worry about “finding my purpose.” What I found was that I’m multi-passionate and didn’t want to be boxed into one thing. I didn’t HAVE to be boxed into one thing. I started a podcast and a blog where I explored the human experience—including my own beautiful, messy, but perfect road. This blog later became my column on BizCatalyst 360°. I became a mentor and a wayshower for others. I became a consultant to help improve company culture and improve client relationships. These are things I couldn’t have imagined a few years ago. But as often is the case, the Universe had an even bigger plan for me than I had for myself. My Soul knew what I would be doing long before I did, and I’m grateful that I followed the Divine map that was laid out before me! I love traveling, exploring new cultures, being in nature, and helping people on their own paths. I hold a B.A. in Communications from Hofstra University. I live in Massachusetts with my rambunctious and hilarious cats, Petey, and Emmett.

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  1. Carol — Just beautiful. “I truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason.” Yes! I feel we are all cosmic travelers, which brings us into contact with others, sometimes for a long period of time, sometimes for a short period of time. The key is to be aware of who has entered our orbit. Thank you for a beautiful way to start Sunday.

    • Thanks so much, Jeff. I love the term “cosmic travelers.” I completely agree–pay attention. Everyone, even those we have brief encounters with, has a role in our “play.”

  2. I hope you find Dan, Mary, and Ellen again, Carol, since they clearly had a very positive impact on both your and Chloe’s lives. Why did you lose touch? No answer necessary.

    The part that stayed with me was how Mary’s initial appearance didn’t seem to match with what was on the inside. Did it change? How did it impact you – you remember it after 20+ years so it obviously did make an impact. Did you ever learn what was behind the worried looks? Now I wonder how I show up, because somebody may remember for a really long time…

    Such a beautiful story of small and big acts of kindness. It would be so interesting to hear what Chloe remembers from those days. I hope you have shared your piece/peace with her.

    • All great questions. There was a lot of judgment from Mary towards me. Some of it I understand, some I did not. Most of it surrounded my ex-husband and things that happened with him. I had issues of shame around this and my perception (right or wrong) was that Mary didn’t approve of me or my choices (based on some comments, etc.). It was a sad & difficult time in a lot of ways. Still, I will always be grateful.
      Chloe spent a lot of time with Dan & Mary but often told me that she liked Dan better because he was more “fun.” I think Mary’s worried looks really came from a place of caring, but often were perceived as judging. Thanks so much for reading this piece, Charlotte.

  3. I do not think I have read such an emotionally gripping description of a real-life drama experienced by an individual. Even though distance-wise remote; across ‘The Pond’, II do care about you. It may sound a bit patronizing, but having had the supreme honor and joy of your friendship Carol, my heart ached at the trauma you experienced (and Chloe).

    Carol, you have experienced hell and high water, but you are a wonderful example as someone who has fought life’s battles and now bless others with your. awesome skills, creativity, buzz of energy, enthusiasm and a manner that would leave a sad person with a beaming smile.

    The description in your article is so vivid, I could all but visualize what you were going through. You have made writing about your life experiences a platform for others to learn from. You deserve all the success and admiration from the many who enjoy your company and positive view of the world. You Personally I have gained so much from our friendship. And I hope that is mutual. Something I will never take for granted. Bless you Carol.
    Simon Lever
    From across ‘The Pond’

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read my essay, Simon! It was a scary time, but with many great lessons. Thank you for all the kind words. I appreciate you so much!