A stone’s throw T
he rocky storm that swept Southern Maryland last year continues to spread!
While visiting family last week in New York, a few stones caught my eye. The statue honoring native daughter and comedienne Lucille Ball in Celoron, N.Y., had a colorful rock at its base.
I wouldn’t have recognized the purple stone for what it was without the phenomenon that is the Kindness Rocks project in Southern Maryland. These precious stones are meant to delight anyone who stumbles upon them (sometimes literally), and be kept or passed along to bring a smile to someone else.
Some have positive sayings (“You Got This!”), while others are just pretty to look at. Either way, they’re a cheap and easy way to spread a little happiness on, say, a grocery run.
Though the rocks are still around, last summer seemed to hit a crescendo in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties. I couldn’t run into a gas station without finding one at the pump or tucked in a windowsill. It was a game to find, collect and share them — a new hobby shared by folks across generations. I loved it, and still do.
When school was back in session, the fever pitch of rock hunting seemed to cool. Kids and adults alike participate, but the searching seems especially exciting for the younger crowd. My toddler son found one decorated with a ghostly face outside a restaurant. I thought it would spook him, but Oliver tucked it right beneath his pillow. We started looking for rocks everywhere.
As the local obsession grew, so did communities on Facebook. Pages were created to share the rock love. Participants post about ones they’ve spotted, created or “dropped” for others to find. More than 11,000 people belong to “Charles County Rocks (Maryland)” and “SoMd Rocks *OFFICIAL*” apiece, and many other groups exist as well.
For reasons I can’t quite explain, I find Kindness Rocks to be absolutely delightful. It’s the element of surprise. Daily life is tiring, routine . . . mundane. We’re going about our business, heading into a doctor’s appointment or stopping for diapers — and bam! A glittery rock right in your path, placed there by an unseen hand. For you.
My eyes are still peeled, but it had been ages since I’d found one. After collecting many rocks last summer, I began re-hiding them in my daily travels again recently. I placed one atop a newspaper box outside a library and walked by to find it gone just minutes later, so I know people are still hunting. We just need to keep it going.
Kindness Rocks are not unique to our area, but I had never come across more in the wild — until last week. At the new Lucy statue, a replacement for the “Scary Lucy” originally placed in Celoron in 2015, my husband and I were surprised to find two special stones: one at Lucy’s feet, and another tucked into a fold of her dress.
Delighted, I took one with the words “Jamestown N.Y. Rocks!” scrawled on the back. The kindness was, indeed, spreading.
The next day, Spencer and I were leaving a store elsewhere in town when he spotted a giant white stone by a tree. It was impossible to overlook, and we practically sprinted to the spot. “You Matter!” was scrawled with a red, white and blue heart. I could have hugged it.
It’s a simple thing, really — but these little acts of thoughtfulness make a big impression. At a time when so much feels divisive and unpleasant, coming across a positive affirmation does add a little sunshine to our day. It does matter.
That particular evening, actually, Spence and I were coming off a rough day with the kids. We were staying with family, out of our routines, and far from home. Parents know that “vacation” is really just corralling your children in a different, often expensive place; there is no rest. No break. Even with my in-laws and others there to help, Oliver and Hadley want Mom and Dad. There is only so much help we can receive.
And I get it! I mean, that’s what we signed up for. We’re parents — their parents. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have moments we want to just sit in the quiet, needing absolutely nothing with no one needing us. I was tired. Mentally, physically.
Our daily work can feel unseen, and our efforts unacknowledged. As a mother who had spent the better part of the previous night comforting a livid toddler, sacrificing both sleep and sanity, it meant something to me to find “You Matter!” I kept it with me, and placed it where I can see it every day.
So let’s keep it going. Pass the encouragement along.
You never know who will stumble upon it . . . and how badly they could need it.