Two Rhode Island designers are offering free room designs for anyone who will commit three random acts of kindness, and they’re doing it because a woman’s car caught fire in a bad neighborhood in Los Angeles in 1978.
The woman whose car caught fire in 1978 is Catherine Ryan Hyde. She saw two men running toward her with a blanket, and her first thought was not about kindness, but her own death. She said the men with the blanket leaned into the flames of her burning engine and patted out the fire.
She never got to thank them, she says in a YouTube video explaining why she wrote the book “Pay It Forward.” Her novel came out in 2000, and the movie of the same name came out in 2001, starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment. Osment plays Trevor McKinney, 12, whose social studies assignment is to design and launch a world-changing idea. His project, to do a kindness for three people and ask them to do a kindness for three more people and keep it going, results in a national movement.
The movie departs from the book, Hyde says, and the book was fiction, but the movement that resulted is real. Thursday is Pay It Forward Day for 2010, and the two Rhode Island women are part of Design it Forward, an interior design version of the idea.
Joyce Heathcote, of Lincoln, as president of the Association of Interior Design Professionals, met Christina Van Blake, of New Hampshire, a designer who lost her job in February 2009. To fight depression, Van Blake offered to design a room in exchange for her client initiating three acts of kindness, asking for nothing in return but payment forward.
Van Blake documented 80 clients and 240 acts of kindness in six months. She created a Web site, and networked with fellow designers. Heathcote and Martinha Javid, of Coventry, formed the Rhode Island chapter.
“When you come home to a space that’s beautiful, you just feel good,” Javid said. The good feelings grow, Heathcote said, when a client does good for someone else.
“I think we all hope as designers that maybe this will lead to business for us,” Heathcote said, “but it’s not our main goal. Our main goal is to change people’s perspective and have them recognize opportunities to do something for someone else.”
Both R.I. designers say they see the power of kindness unleashed. “We just need to kind of let it go and see what happens.”
Causes Catherine Hyde Supports
The Pay It Forward Foundation, Marriage Equality (See Human Rights Campaign), the 350 movement to help ease global climate change, LandWatch San Luis Obispo...