Rock-ing the Neighborhood: There Were No Rules

Rock painting done with inspirational messages and designs
Rock Photo by Julie Ranson

How I learned to let go of “my art”

There’s a sign at my neighborhood entrance requesting painted rocks. The instructions on the sign include: paint some rocks, leave rocks around, and go find rocks. Have you seen this anywhere?

I presume this idea was inspired by The Kindness Rocks Project which was a dream of Megan Murphy’s. The rocks her site promotes contain hopeful messages to bring simple joy to the recipient. One motto on her website reads,

One message at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, outlook, life

Seemed pretty straightforward so I gathered up my craft paints and other supplies and got to work. First, though, I researched the art form, such that it is. I’m crafty but I’m not really a visionary in the art department. I needed ideas, so I searched for painted rocks online and got a wealth of ideas. Using what supplies I had and my limited painting skill, I finally got to work “interpreting” the marvelous rock designs I’d found on the web.

I left my first rock gift at a friend’s mailbox. Lily was excited. On day two, she texted me and said a little girl had picked it up and looked at it. Then walked off with it! Lily was beside herself and talked about putting out a sign saying, “one per family.” I had to laugh, for though I had not thought about a yard sign, I had considered the notion of rules.

You see, I thought there were some rules. The sign at the entrance — it said…. Well, it didn’t say much but leave rocks and find rocks. But clearly at least two of my neighbors thought the same thing as me. The rocks would stay where we left them.

Rocks at a mailbox deliver joy

We did not, however, think the recipient would be a snotty kid sniffing out these treasures on her bicycle. One who’d hoard the rocks in her frilly purple bedroom. At first, I imagined she had a pink bedroom, but then I knew it would be purple. Purple — the favorite color of rock-hoarding brats.

Lily got into the project and delivered her own small message rocks while on her walks. She left several sweet ones at the start of my sidewalk (social distancing!). Sometimes she moved rocks from mailbox to mailbox. It was all about the message and the recipient for her.

I recently left her a four-inch rock painted with a sunset and palm tree. She texted a thanks with a photo of it in her flower garden closer to the house. She foiled the kid!

The joy boomerangs back

My mail carrier stopped while I was at the street to follow up on a missing package. Then she asked, “Did you paint the footprints rock?” I said I had. Anne Marie said she saw lots of rocks every day on her route, but this was her favorite. Tentatively she asked if I was painting any more because she would really like one. I told her I would get it done.

After that conversation, my rocky attitude changed. The rocks were… Joy! Fun! Simple gifts! They were not “mine” anymore. The painted rocks signified love from my heart passing through to the recipient, any recipient.

Rock painting to inspire others
Photo by Julie Ranson

What would I do with dozens of painted rocks anyway? Would I pile them on my front porch or in the garden? Would I leave them to fade in the weather, leeching their patina and magic into rotting pine mulch?

Absolutely not! My purpose was to paint and share a gift. Mission accomplished. 

Let your art and joy flow out there

What can you do to share joy in your neighborhood? What are you already doing? It doesn’t have to be painted rocks. Our intrinsic gifts and talents are meant to be shared with the universe. Go forth and get rock-y or get busy doing something for someone!

Remember, one message or one caring action at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, outlook, life.

I invite you to read more of my work over on Medium.com at https://medium.com/@julranieson where I write original pieces and also share my web-blog posts from this site.

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