I was walking my dog around my neighborhood not too long ago, when he started sniffing at a rock that was unusually green. I looked a bit closer and saw the word “Don’t…”. I picked it up and was immediately drawn into a community that encompasses more than 17,000 people from all over the world who have been reminded that, even in these times, kindness rocks.
Megan Murphy got started with the Kindness Rocks Project—where people find or buy rocks, paint them with positive affirmations or sweet scenes or both, and then hide them for strangers to find—as far back as March 2015 on Cape Cod. She says her intention was simply to spread peace and kindness “at a time when our world needs it most.”
“This project resonated when I started it, due to the political election going on and people were so divided,” says Murphy, who maintains the http://thekindnessrocksproject.com website, and a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TheKindnessRocksProject, that is being followed by more than 60,000 people. “Today there are natural disasters, mass shootings, and looming threats of war. There are always divisive things in the news, and not enough attention to kind acts.”
She says the project has reinforced for her that people just want to know that they matter.
“I know this to be true, one simple message can let them know that they are not alone,” says Murphy.
A Small, Powerful Gesture
On a Wednesday night in early October, Dawn Parker of Chester was sitting by herself in a room at the Henry Carter Hull Library in Clinton, but she was far from alone. She was one of more than a dozen women, and one young girl, who were attending a Kindness Rocks craft night. A project manager who travels around the state for her work, Parker was drawn to the event because she loves the idea of the rocks bringing people together on a global level with such a small gesture.
“It’s a burst of happiness, in an easy way,” she says, painting one of her rocks a deep blue. “It’s a little bit of your personality, and also being part of a bigger collective whole. It’s just sweet, a sweet little something to leave in the world.”
As she contemplates what kind of design and message she would like to paint, she’s drawn into a conversation with Linda Knotts of Groton and Leesburg, Florida, and her daughter Stephanie Olson of Old Lyme, who are sitting nearby working on their rocks.
Knotts is working on a specific rock for a specific friends who is observing a shivah for her recently deceased husband. She’s already decided upon a message, “you don’t cross my mind, you LIVE in it.” It’s written on a small piece of paper propped up against her cell phone, with a butterfly, and several small hearts doodled on it.
Knotts found her first rock in Stonington a while back and she’s been hooked ever since.
Parker says she been studying up by checking out the work of the Higganum Kindness Rocks Project, (www.facebook.com/thehigganumCTkindnessrockproject/), and by studying the artistry a woman named Marlie from Branford who posts to her own Rocks by Marlie (www.facebook.com/RocksByMarlie) page.
“Oh, she is such an artist,” Parker says of Marlie.
I ask if she aspires to do work like Marlie. Parker laughs.
“I’m not that talented. I’m like, you go lady. I love her work.”
The next day I connected with Marlowe “Marlie” Ioime of Branford, who learned about the Kindness Rocks project two years ago. She remembers being like Parker, and not thinking of herself as an artist.
The Message Holds the Meaning
“I have always enjoyed drawing, but I never had any real skill. I was primarily someone who doodled. My drawing and painting abilities evolved tremendously over time from doing this project,” Ioime says. “Looking back at my rocks in the beginning compared to the rocks I’m able to create now is kind of shocking to me. So when people tell me they’d love to do it but can’t draw a stick figure, I always tell them to try and to keep doing it because they do get better—and honestly the rocks don’t have to be beautiful—it’s the message that holds the meaning. If you can write, you can create a rock that can change the course of someone’s day. You never know what someone is going through, and how meaningful a little token like this is to someone.”
Ioime loves creating the rocks so much that she’s often up with the birds, painting at her kitchen table. She favors ocean rocks from Rhode Island, saying that Connecticut rocks from Long Island Sound are sometimes a bit rough. Or she heads over to Home Depot to get a 30 pound bag of rocks called River Pebbles for about $12. She uses both acrylic paints and Posca paint pens, because they don’t run or clog, and last a long time. She then seals the rocks with a protective coating of sealer. She likes Krylon, but says others favor Modge Podge.
‘Takes Your Breath Away’
Joanie Armstrong DuBois created the CT Shoreline ROCKS on Facebook in August, and fairly soon was up to several hundred members. DuBois moved to Guilford about two years ago with her family, and says it was, of the many places her family had lived, the first place that felt like home.
She found a rock while visiting her sister in Nashville, and decided she wanted to bring it back to Guilford. She says her kids have become obsessed with it.
“It’s like an Easter Egg hunt,” she says.
In addition to having fun painting the rocks, she says it’s a great way to teach her children the importance of kindness, and how doing something small can make a difference.
“I want them to think they are capable of changing someone’s day,” she says. “When you find one, it’s something that takes your breath away.”
She says that her husband is active duty military and that it sometimes can feel hard to fit in. That wasn’t the case with Guilford, she says, and creating the Kindness Rocks community online, and in the real world, was her way of thanking the community.
“When we moved here we didn’t know anybody, and everybody we met opened their doors to us. It was so friendly and really easy to feel welcomed here, so we like to do our part, keeping it a good place to live and raise kids,” she says.
She adds that the Facebook group “took off like crazy.”
“I didn’t think it would get so big, but it was really great,” she says, saying that it took her a bit by surprise.
The local hardware store, Page Hardware & Appliance Co., even pitched in by putting out a table with supplies that anyone could use for a couple of days at the end of the summer.
The time she and her family has invested has been well rewarded, she says.
“I remember reading one story about
someone who had a really difficult week. Her aunt passed away, and her dog was put down. It was just terrible. And one of the rocks made a different. Hearing that makes it all worth it,” she says.
She adds that she doesn’t want to take credit for the work being done by the people in her Facebook group.
“I just wanted to bring what I knew to Guilford to help,” she says.
Ioime says she felt the same way about bringing it to her hometown. Still, at some point she has to get up from the kitchen table and go to work, as assistant director at the Canoe Brook Senior Center in Branford. And she’s found a small way to incorporate her personal passion with her work.
“I started a small group at the senior center, Canoe Brook Rocks,” she says. “It’s brand new and still in the early stages, but it’s been met with a lot of positive feedback. The seniors absolutely love participating in the project, and it’s such a rewarding, creative thing to do, and something they can do with their grandchildren.”
For those who want to try it, she says, “just keep at it.” She says there are lots of ideas online and groups people can join. “I always draw my art in pencil first so I can erase the many mistakes I make, and don’t be hard on yourself. Just know you are the vessel delivering a much-needed message to someone who needs it. They don’t have to be perfect, just a token of positivity and light for someone.”
That rock, that day I found it, was indeed a token of positivity and light. It read in its entirety, “Don’t Dull Your Sparkle.” And we found it on a day when I felt entirely devoid of sparkle. I loved not only the message, but the homemade look and feel of it. It definitely is a Long Island rock, with rough edges that haven’t been subjected to as many waves as its ocean brethren. It fit perfectly in my hand, and delivered a message perfectly right for me at the right time. When I hide it again, I do it hoping it will add a bit of sparkle to someone else’s day.