By Callie Collins
It’s been a long, difficult week without rest or solace, and you could really use something to lift your spirits. You venture outside for a stroll in the fresh air, some peace and quiet. A few blocks down from your house, a flash of color on the ground catches your eye and you nearly smother it with your next step.
Instead, you bend over to get a closer look. A small rock reads in cheery paint, “If you kick something in anger, the only thing that will hurt is your foot”.
You grin, even let out a little chuckle. This is just what you needed to pick yourself up and keep going. However, your unexpected find is shrouded in mystery: where did it come from?
If you haven’t encountered it already, you may see the results of the expanding Kindness Rocks project soon on a stroll of your own. Donna Shaffer of Ashland, VA created the Center of the Universe chapter of the project on June 20. The branch already has 116 members and counting.
Started by Megan Murphy of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the Kindness Rocks Project began as a personal journey of acceptance, closure, and simple good feeling. In difficult times, Murphy took heart-shaped rocks and bits of sea glass on the beach as signs from her parents above, and one day decided to bestow the rewarding feeling of finding a “sign” unto others. She began painting uplifting messages and images on small rocks, and leaving them along the beach on her walks, and before long, she was receiving messages from friends who had found them. After that, her project took off.
Since then, Ms. Shaffer started the local chapter, and is seeking to expand. “I think it would be great to connect with other groups, like the RVA chapter. I heard of the project from a West Virginia chapter while visiting family, so it’s spread from there.”
Julie Ross found the Center of the Universe group on Facebook, and joined right away. “I had no idea how big the whole thing was- there are 17,000 members in the RVA chapter alone!” She is awed by the impact it has on both the members and the people who find the rocks. “One of my friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time came over, and we collected and painted rocks for the project- we spent about 8 hours together. The project just impacts so many.”
Both Ross and Shaffer look for a unique flaw, shape, or design already on the rock to base their design on. Shaffer once found a rock that resembled lips, and painted the Rolling Stones logo on it. She is also partial to quotes from Picasso and Helen Keller, such as “To draw, you must close your eyes and sing” and “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart”. Ross, using the same technique as Shaffer, once found a rock shaped like a foot. She painted a foot, and the previously mentioned phrase, “If you kick something in anger, the only thing that will hurt is your foot”. She also enjoys painting scriptures that are close to her, touching others through a personal connection.
Ross and Shaffer place rocks often in their travels both locally and on the road, as all members do. If you come across one, reach out to the Kindness Rocks Project, and pass it on to share the love.