Courtesy of Heather McCandlish
Courtesy of Andrea Lapoint
Courtesy of Andrea Lapoint
Courtesy of Amy Wecas Baehr
Courtesy of Karen Howard
Courtesy of Rahcal Woolet
Courtesy of Becky Lynch
Courtesy of Jen Rohr
Courtesy of Shaune Matthews
Courtesy of Michelle Hamilton
Courtesy of Rachal Woolet
Courtesy of Rachal Woolet
Courtesy of Courtney Trotter
VIRGINIA BEACH — A new national craze of kindness has reached the Southside.
If you’ve been seeing positive messages scrolled on brightly painted rocks, you have one of the several local online groups to thank for it.
What started as one woman’s effort to spread “signs” of encouragement in her own local community has become a national — and international — phenomenon. Although the idea spread online, the communities it inspired are intensely active at the local, grassroots level.
Participants — who range from children to senior citizens, though they’re mostly families with younger children — hold meet-ups to collaborate and paint smoothed rocks with uplifting quotes, animals and other fun images.
“I like to paint cartoon characters,” Rachal Woolet, who helped start the Norfolk Rocks! Facebook group, said in a message. “I’ve done Minnie Mouse, ‘Fox and the Hound,’ Hello Kitty, [and] Pinky Pie from ‘My Little Pony.’”
“I’ve painted everything from American flags, blue lives matter, beach scenes, baseball fields, cancer sucks, jellyfish, a pizza slice, all the way to shark teeth,” said Courtney Trotter.
Trotter, who created the group a little over four months ago, relocated to Norfolk after having been part of a large, active “rocking” community in Dayton Beach.
“We live in a military community so we shared the group, added our friends, and family and it just took off,” Woolet said. “It was so neat to see it grow and grow in such a short time.”
Their group had just under 1,000 members at the time of this writing.
Amber Personett, who started the Virginia Beach Rocks! group, also transplanted the idea from another faraway corner of the country, Whidbey Island, Wash.
“When my husband and I got stationed over here I wanted to continue painting rocks because it is a fun way to interact with my children and spend time outside,” she said in a Facebook message.
Personett ran into a hurdle, initially, however: the Virginia coastline doesn’t offer much in terms of sizeable stones.
“Being from Washington state we never had a shortage of rocks around the beaches. But, it’s been fun trying to find rocks or even going to purchase river rocks from local hardware stores and painting them as simple random acts of kindness,” she said. “They’ve always brought a smile to my face and I just wanted to share the joy.”
Andrea Lapoint, who runs another Norfolk group, Norfolk Rocks Journey, got into the scene after experiencing the power of positivity firsthand.
“When my daughters went to Northside Park they found two rocks painted by two other little girls so we decided to do it as a family because it truly made their day,” she said. “Now I paint with all four of my kids including my six-year-old.”
Her family even drives with rocks in the car, just in case they find a new place to hide them.
“My kids love when theirs are found, and [they know] it makes someone’s day happier,” she added.
In seemingly dozens of posts in these groups every day, members add pictures of rocks they’ve found, announce meet-ups and leave hints about the locations of newly hidden gems.
Although the Facebook groups are based around local areas, the rocks often have a way of finding themselves outside of their home turf.
After Norfolk Rocks! Member Heather Pfeiffer rocked the Norfolk Health Department and medical examiner’s office, she befriended one of the employees, Alysha Teachey, who was already a member of a Suffolk group.
“I just thought they work so hard for Norfolk in thankless jobs,” Pfeiffer said. “I am a nurse and I need a lift sometimes and I hoped the rocks would lift the spirits of the employees and patients. I gained happiness, I lifted spirits and gained a new friend.”
Other local rocks have made it even farther away.
“Some [members] travel and found our rocks elsewhere. I know I just came from a home vacation at Whidbey Island and I took rocks from here over there and hid them,” Personett said. “We’ve had people from Florida find rocks and join the group.”
“I’ve seen people post rocks here that have made it from Florida, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia,” Woolet added.
The original spark for the idea is attributed to Megan Murphy, a women’s empowerment coach in Cape Cod. She began the Kindness Rocks Project as a way to subtly encourage people that needed it. Murphy herself, is no stranger to hardship, having lost her parents at a young age.
“During difficult or stressful moments in my life, I found myself looking for “signs” on my morning walk, such as a heart shaped rock or a piece of sea glass,” she writes on the project’s website. “I perceived these small beach treasures as ‘signs’ or as a divine message and the random inspiration I needed to signify that things would be o.k.”
“Now more than ever kindness can become a connecting force for good. Many people, including myself, are feeling a sense of overwhelm, unease and restlessness due to the current events taking place in our world today, and I believe that our united strength can be cultivated through simple random acts of kindness. Each of us can make a positive difference.”
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