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Everything seemed to be going wrong in Maureen Festa's life. Her mother was dying, her marriage was ending, she had to move out of her home, and faced having to leave the community she loved. She'd learned of a potential new apartment just down the street, but, on the day she'd planned to see it, she was laid off from her job. To her surprise, the apartment's landlord gave her reason to hope.
Maureen tells her story for WBUR's Kind World, celebrating acts of kindness.
MAUREEN FESTA: In the summer of 2009, my ex-husband and I separated. It was amicable, we had tried to work on our marriage, it just wasn't working. Going along with our separation we were gonna sell our house, we were trying to figure out how we would split up our things, how we would split up our dog. But, on top of it, my mother, who has since passed away, had breast cancer and she was, at that point in terminal cancer. So things were quite stressful.
And in the course of one single week we filed our divorce papers, we put our house on the market, and then I lost my job.
I was called into a meeting in the morning. My boss had come over and said, you know, can you come downstairs to where the meeting was being held. I grabbed a notebook and a pen, walked down to the room, walked in, saw our VP and the HR person, and was told that I didn't have a job anymore. And I put my head down on that desk and sobbed and told them, "You have no idea what's going on in my life and I can't...I can't lost my job right now. There's nothing else that I have." I was escorted from the building. Someone else grabbed my purse for me, and that was it.
When I was going to leave my house that I owned and we were selling the house, I preferred to stay in my part of Jamaica Plain. I just felt like, with everything being up in the air, I just really wanted to stay local. And neighbors of mine, they knew of another couple in the neighborhood, Kate and Andy, that were purchasing a two-family house. And so I kind of threw all my eggs in one basket, exactly what you're not supposed to do, and made an appointment to go the day after they closed on the house, at six o'clock.
As it happened, that was the day that I got laid off. I met him at the house. It was the first time I was gonna see it from the inside. And I walked up to the door and I just said, "Andy, you're not gonna wanna rent to me. I lost my job today."
He absolutely could have said, "Oh, well we'll have to think about it," or, "We'll get back to you." I mean, what's the first thing that you'd want is someone who's employed. And Andy said to me, "Well, I'm sure it'll be fine. We'll work something out."
If they hadn't let me rent the apartment, I honestly don't know what I would have done. It grounded me when I had nothing. The bottom felt like it was falling out, and to know that I didn't have to move far, that I could stay where I had lived for 15 years, meant a lot to me. It really made it feel like, if nothing else, the rug wasn't being pulled out from underneath me, like I had a place to be. And I knew I could make it home.
I still live in my apartment. I moved in 2009 and so it's been five years, and my landlords and I have really become more than just friends, it's like a family. We'll share dinners, we share holidays. Their son calls me "Aunt Maureen." Andy, one time, someone asked him how he shows love to someone; if he loves someone what does he show to them. And he said he feeds them. And that's exactly what it's been like. And there are times when I feed them.
They said yes, and I was so grateful.
Kind World is a project of the WBUR iLab, celebrating stories of kindness and the profound effect that one act can have on our lives.
This segment aired on December 11, 2014.
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