By Peggy Montella
MoCo residents out walking in their neighborhoods this spring may be surprised to find painted rocks with inspirational sayings and beautiful designs hidden near walkways, lakes, and trees. I first came across a painted stone hidden on a fence while walking with my dogs in Montgomery Village. I joined the Montgomery Village ❤ Rocks (MV Rocks) Facebook page to see what this growing trend is all about and found that it is not just happening locally. The Kindness Rocks Project, founded by Megan Murphy of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has inspired many groups to form. Kindness Rocks Damascus and Olney Rocks have also been busy spreading kindness and happiness in their communities.
Julia Naoui founded MV Rocks in July 2017 with members of her walking group. The group’s plans for the day were cancelled due to bad weather so they stayed inside and painted rocks instead. Since then, the group has grown to 345 members with new members being added daily. Kristen Nelson started Olney Rocks in June 2017 after seeing Kindness Rocks posts on her timeline and realizing that Olney did not yet have a group. Nelson said that performing random acts of kindness is very important to her family and it was easy to start the group with friends and neighbors. Olney Rocks now has over 750 members and has helped spread the movement to other local organizations including elementary schools and Girl Scout troops. According to its Facebook page, Kindness Rocks Damascus has 691members.
The common purpose of these groups is to bring joy to their communities. “Fostering happiness and kindness” is one of Olney Rocks’ goals, according to Nelson. She said it has been a very positive experience and the best part is “the happiness that it brings to our community.” The Montgomery Village Rockspage describes the group as a “way to connect our community, encourage art, and promote random acts of kindness.” Kindness Rocks Damascus believes “pictures and inspirational quotes can bring a smile to someone looking or to that lucky someone who stumbles upon a beautifully painted rock.”
Some rocks are intricate works of art representing the seasons as well as containing upbeat messages. I was assured that anyone of any age and level of artistic talent can participate and it is an activity that parents and kids of all ages can enjoy together. Julia Naoui even hosts monthly potluck painting sessions where beginners can get a start. Naoui said that people come to the event “as strangers and leave as friends.”
And it’s not just the fun of painting the rocks that gives this movement its joy. It’s also the thrill of seeing someone else’s delight when they find your rock. It is the icing on the cake, as MV Rocks co-admin Lori Guthrie describes it. Although they aren’t obligated to do so, many people post photos of the rocks they’ve found and either leave them where they are or hide them for someone else to find. Some people keep their favorites. It is entirely up to the finder. Naoui said she believes “rocks come to you for a reason” and encourages people to keep the first rock they find. She said many people are so pleased to find a rock that they are inspired to paint and place some of their own. All of the groups’ Facebook pages list helpful suggestions on how to get started and guidelines for placing the rocks safely in public places. The goal is to keep the positivity going and make MoCo a better community, one rock at a time.