PHOTO BY ROB KAUFMAN
HEATHER PRICE STARTED A MOVEMENT IN HONOR OF HER DAUGHTER, AND THE LOWCOUNTRY MIGHT NEVER BE THE SAME.
THIS STORY BEGINS IN TRAGEDY. The kind of scarring, senseless tragedy that leaves even the strongest of us trembling like a child reaching for the light to banish the monsters under the bed. Vivienne Rose Nicole Vacha was a precocious six-week-old, bright-eyed and curious. Even at that tender age, she marveled at the world and the world in turn marveled back. Over and over people told her mother, Heather Price, what an alert baby Vivienne was. Those bright eyes, blue like her mother’s, seemed to take in everything in awe and wonder.
Then one night in January, at the age of six weeks and six days, Vivienne drifted off into the cooing sleep of a happy baby. She never woke.
The pain of SIDS doesn’t just come from a young life taken away too soon. It doesn’t just come from a lifetime of promise, stolen in an instant. It comes from the endless blackness of the unknown. By its very nature, SIDS is a question mark, a vacuum for which none of our vast scientifi c achievements has an answer. Vivienne was not wrapped in any blankets, no one around her smoked, she was not shaken. She slept on her back. There’s a misconception, borne from our need as rational humans to make some kind of sense of the world, that SIDS has a cause. But as far as our brightest minds know, it doesn’t. For reasons that none of us can begin to fathom, baby Vivienne just died.
This story begins in tragedy. It continues in hope.
It continues with an outpouring of positivity that is turning into a sea change of strangers helping strangers, sweeping across Hilton Head Island the way the wind slowly transforms a sand dune, one grain at a time. Price did not want her daughter simply remembered for the bleak, horrible circumstance in which her light went out. She wanted her daughter remembered for the shining brilliance that light provided during the all-too-short time it glowed.
She kept that light alive by starting a movement to pay it forward. “Vivienne knows what she’s done,” said Price.
Maybe you’ve been touched by it. Maybe the car in front of you at the drive-thru has paid for your coffee, showing a selfl ess act of kindness to you, a stranger. Maybe you’ve seen the card that comes with the act of kindness, telling Vivienne’s story and urging you to pass it on. Hopefully, you’ve heeded its advice.
“A friend of mine started this when Vivienne passed away,” said Price of the countless pay it forward cards released into the wild in her daughter’s honor. “You randomly do something nice and give them the card. They pass the card along and hopefully it keeps going.”
The cards have begun swirling around Hilton Head and Bluffton, reaching as far as Australia, Germany and England, leaving in their wake a movement to help your fellow man. Vivienne looked at this world as a bright, wonderful place. For a brief moment after receiving a card, this random act of kindness, we share her wonder if only for a moment. Then, we pass it on so that others can see the light as well, and the dune slowly shifts.
“I heard from one woman who was in line at the grocery store,” Price said, sharing one of many stories of the people touched by these cards. “The girl in front of her had baby formula and couldn’t pay for it. The woman paid for it and, gave her a card, and the girl got hysterical.”
This girl, so the story goes, brought her benefactor out to her car to meet her 80-year-old grandmother. There, dressed in their finest, were a grandmother and a pair of twin babies in the backseat. Through tears, the girl said how the twins had been triplets.
“The third child had just died of SIDS,” said Price. “They were leaving the funeral.”
The stories are endless of these cards spreading hope and joy. One of the first cards Price gave out wound its way around town, helping a little girl attend a month of tumbling classes that her mother couldn’t afford. When Price paid for an order behind her at Starbucks, the recipient tracked her down to thank her and let her know she’d paid it forward.
The movement has a home on Facebook, at PayingItForwardForVivienne. Price created the page 20 days after Vivienne died, figuring that a few family and friends might join her in this movement. “At last count, 1,557 people had joined the page.”In addition to the cards, Price issues a Vivienne challenge every weekend. “
I’m challenging people to live in the moment, to get out of their schedule,” said Price. “Go on a picnic. Go to the beach. Go to the park. Have your kids help you make fun finger foods.”
Some of these challenges are more proactive in helping. As Vivienne was an organ donor, Price asked everyone to sign up. Other challenges range from donating school supplies to helping stock up local animal shelters for winter.
It’s a simple thing, to take a moment of your day to do something better. Too often we forget to do it. But in memory of her daughter, and the brief joy she brought to so many, Price is making sure that we never forget to pay it forward.
Visit facebook.com/PayingItForwardForVivienne or simply pass that card along when it comes to you. The world will be a better place for your kindness.
20 ways to ... PAY IT FORWARD
- Pay for the person behind you at the drive-thru
- Donate goods to charity
- Donate blood
- Volunteer at a nursing home
- Welcome new neighbors with a housewarming gift
- Let someone check out before you at the supermarket
- Send a friend an unexpected gift
- Bring in breakfast for the office
- Offer your parking space in a crowded lot
- Make a care package for a member of the military
- Provide roadside assistance to someone in need
- Give someone short on change that extra dime
- Offer someone your seat
- When someone drops something, pick it up
- Pick up litter you see on the beach
- Teach someone a skill that you’ve mastered
- Offer to take a picture for tourists
- Pay the toll for the vehicle behind you
- Add change to an expired meter
- Give your neighbor produce from your garden