2022, Inspirational

02.08.22 Kindness Rocks, by Erin Furian

Most everyone that has been following my blog for any length of time knows that I paint/decorate/decoupage rocks to hide “in plain sight.” That all started when I first heard about the Kindness Rock Project a few years ago. This man had a similar experience and here is his story. If he inspires you to start painting and hiding I know you will love it!

Kindness Rocks, by Erin Furian

Our site title of Throwing Stones has a little bit of back story. One part of that backstory is the painted rocks you have seen images of on the site.

A few years ago I was going through a pretty rough patch.  Kind of a pre-2020 2020 all my own. I was depressed and uninspired.  I barely wanted to leave the house and couldn’t bring myself to talk to my friends. My wife cajoled me into leaving the house to go to the grocery store with the promise that I could just sit in the car.  We parked next to a light pole when we got there, which turned out to be a very nice thing.

While she went into the shop I sat in the front seat of the car just staring out the window.  I glanced around at one point and noticed something shiny and odd shaped sitting on the base of the lamp post. From my angle it was partially hidden by the edge of the base so I couldn’t quite tell what it was other than it wasn’t part of the lamp post.  Eventually I was curious enough to get out of the car and check out what it was.

It was a rock.  Someone had painted it gold on one side and put a little note on it.  It said “I’m glad you are here.” on the back was a facebook page and a hashtag along with the words “keep me or rehide.”

“What an odd thing” I thought. But the note was something I needed to hear. Having been given permission by the rock, I took it with me and looked up the hashtag and Facebook group for The Kindness Rocks Project.

The hashtag led me to a plethora of beautiful and cute little pieces of art done on rocks. My computer screen filled with color. There were literally thousands of people out there painting rocks and leaving them somewhere for people to find, just to brighten someone else’s day. I’ve always been a little intimidated by painting. It was my sister’s thing, my uncle’s thing, my cousin’s thing, my friend’s thing. And they were really good at it. Me, I was just okay at art. I’ve always been told my talent was writing. Well when that’s what you hear and that’s what you practice then yeah you don’t develop skills in other media. But I loved the color and the reason behind the Kindness rocks.

What are Kindness rocks?

The Kindness Rocks Project™, which encourages people to leave rocks painted with inspiring messages along the path of life was created by Megan Murphy. She was looking for inspiration of her own when she decided to put encouraging messages on rocks she had found on her walks along the beach in Cape Cod and leave them for others. Through coincidence one of her friends found one of her rocks and called her to tell her how much she had needed the message found on that rock that day. That response inspired Megan to do more and at the behest of her daughter she put the information up on social media.

There are now groups around the country painting rocks and leaving them for people. Some people paint words, some mandalas, some cute animals or cartoons. I found one of the groups in my local area and discovered that you didn’t have to be a fantastic artist to participate.  You just had to care about other people and want to brighten their day. Also these groups would provide a theme for the month with a list of things to paint every day, one month was disney, one ships, another nature themed, always something different each month. There is always an idea out there to borrow if you don’t know what to paint that day. And the hobby is cheap. A rainbow’s worth of cheap acrylic paints and some brushes. Just add rocks. The bonus for me was that once the rocks were finished they went away.  They didn’t build up in an untidy pile making me wonder why I kept making more. The finished pieces were sealed and put out in the world where they would hopefully make someone smile or maybe inspire them to a kindness of their own.

I started small. A daisy on a rock. A few words on the back and I was done.  The daisy was lopsided. The edges blurry where my brush shook. But I let it dry, sealed it and then left it near a bus stop I frequented. It was off the path but where it could be seen. Public property but not where it might foul a lawnmower. It was half the size of my palm. The next time I was by that spot it was gone. Encouraged, I painted more. One or 2 a week. Simple smiley faces. A small rock turned into a ladybug. I started taking pictures and watching YouTube tutorials for ideas. I’d follow along with the video stopping and starting the videos to get each step and viola! I made a droplet of water falling from a leaf! 

This little bit of art fed my soul in a way I hadn’t known I needed. I kept it simple, sticking to cheap paints and found rocks. It is possible to buy rocks and to even make them yourself using molds and a type of plaster/cement but mostly I prefer the stones I find. The odd shapes are challenging and sometimes suggest what they want to be painted into. I was no longer hiding in the house all the time. Look, everything didn’t get magically better when I found that first rock but bit by bit, by doing something, I did find my way to getting better myself. I even ended up connecting with my sister in an unexpected way when we found a rock that someone painted.  

While I was helping her move from Alabama to Washington we were in Huntsville.  We’d stopped by a park to eat lunch and came across a rock that had “Hope” painted on it with a hashtag of rocketcityrocks on the back..  When I explained to her what it was and what it was meant to do she got excited. She shared the activity with her grandkids and they got to paint rocks with Grandma which they loved.  Then the grandkids got to leave the painted rocks for other people around the neighborhood which they excitedly did.  It was the sweetest thing to hear those littles talking about how they hoped it would make someone happy.  Kids love to show off and make other people happy. Ask any parent whose refrigerator sports a collection of crayon drawings if you doubt me about that. This was something they could easily do with a little help from Grandma.

When it came to painting rocks, I didn’t have to be good at it or prolific. I could paint whenever I wanted to or not. The finished rocks went out into the world to help others and that made me happy.  This was a direct change from other hobbies I’d tried where the goal always seemed to be getting as good or proficient at it as possible. Here with Kindness rocks it was just about spreading kindness. 

Then Covid-19 hit. Travel was curtailed. My quiet tree lined neighborhood that usually has a lot of people walking dogs suddenly had a lot more people out for strolls. Families pushing strollers. Little kids on their first bikes. Suddenly people were spending a lot more time in their front yards just to see other humans even if from a safe lawn spanning distance.  Many people got puppies that now needed lots of walks.  My family was among that group.  However an old knee injury of mine chose this time to make a final betrayal. The cartilage gave out and I was now bone on bone in that knee joint making walking more than a ¼ mile difficult. So I started painting more. I wasn’t getting out as much.  My stash of finished rocks built up.  Enter the Kindness rock garden at the front edge of our yard.

Some scrap wood, paint and the first set of stones went out. It didn’t take long to hear through my screen door that my neighbors had discovered the sign. To my delight the rocks were gone inside of a week. By then my wife and I had more to add to the garden. For weeks through the spring and summer we painted and added rocks.  My wife found the painting to be an outlet for the creativity that she normally would have turned loose teaching at an art camp or summer school program. She quickly surpassed my output.  Which was wonderful.

Every person we met (hollering across the lawn or driveway) thanked us for the little rock garden. One neighbor even provided a bucket of rocks that were perfect for painting.  The UPS guy took pictures. Our regular mailman stopped after dropping off our mail, called his wife, facetiming her to see if she wanted one.  And one little girl asked if she could paint some rocks to add to the garden. Of course we said yes. So one week we had a guest artist!

This direct interaction with people taking the rocks was very different from the drop offs I had been doing where I was taking it on faith that I was improving someone’s day. Now I had direct proof that trying to bring some kindness with creativity to someone else was a good thing. I was doing something I wasn’t great at and by doing it I was vulnerable. These were neighbors. They knew me and where I lived.  But from my window I’d see a family stop at the little garden and pick out their favorite to take. Then they would move off usually with a little girl clutching her newest treasure.  Some told us they would take them to leave out in the city or at a friends house. Some told us they were starting their own rock painting or that they’d been inspired to try something else for the neighborhood. There are now two different little libraries that have appeared in the neighborhood. The neighborhood feels a little more connected and friendly

After a time our Kindness rock garden became bare.  We haven’t been painting much since school started again. It may be online but that poses its own issues. Also it’s winter now and in Portland that means a lot of cold rain. Dog walkers move a little quicker and there are a lot fewer families walking little ones around the wet streets.  But that’s okay I’m still painting a little and all gardens have a time to lie fallow before spring comes again.

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I still paint rocks almost every day. I’ve added painting and/or decoupaging seashells and oyster shells. Some of the decoupaged shells will be hidden for someone to find and hopefully put a smile on their face and their heart! Some of the shells will become Christmas tree ornaments and some will be given to friends to use as ring/earring/coin bowls. Sometimes the happiest part of my day is when I am in my “rock room,” creating something that I hope will make someone else smile!

Ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear!

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