When Wendy Gallacher arrives at the coffee shop, she’s carrying a handful of rocks in her purse. She buys a cold brew, sits down by a window, and spreads the rocks on the table. One features a modest green ring encircling a purple center, one mimics the Italian flag. Another depicts a monarch butterfly so charming it looks ready—if not to fly into the air—to land in the pages of a children’s book. But Wendy is no artist.
“I have always been considered artistic. I do not consider myself an artist,” she explains. “But that’s horrible because I actually teach kids, ‘You are all artists.’”
She carries a dozen or so of these rocks in her car at all times, but the ones she’s just laid on the table bear special significance. The first two—the Italian rock and the one that looks like a ripening eggplant—are the first rocks she and her two sons collected. They’re the reason she tells kids (and adults) that they are all artists. And they’re the reason she founded the Fayette Rocks Kindness Project.
Wendy brought the international movement The Kindness Rocks Project to Fayette County this spring. The project, founded two years ago, consists of communities connected by a common theme: spreading kindness with small colorful rocks.
Life coach Megan Murphy began the project in her hometown of Cape Cod. After Megan left painted rocks on the beach as an encouragement to others, discoverers responded with gratefulness and support; so she started an official project. Since then, kindness rock gardens have popped up across the U.S., even appearing in all seven continents.
Last summer, when Wendy visited her family in Lakeland, Florida, they told her how groups of brightly colored rocks with encouraging messages had been appearing all over the city. Then this spring, on another visit, she and her sons picked up the first two rocks.
Today Fayette County boasts several rock gardens, including some at Fayetteville City Hall, Peachtree City City Hall, Shamrock Park, Fayetteville Dwarf House, and Fayette United Methodist Church. The project hosts frequent rock painting events in the area as well.
The idea of The Kindness Rocks Project is simple. Organizers leave clusters of rocks around approved areas in the community, and everyone else is encouraged to take them or decorate and deposit their own. Found a rock? Take it, keep it, post its picture on the local project’s Facebook page, or leave it somewhere else to bring a smile to a new face.
Before she began her first rock garden, Wendy called Megan for advice on starting the movement locally.
“It was really important to me to stay connected to her vision because that was really my vision, of it being more about kindness than the artwork,” Wendy says.
Although she’d started a Facebook page and a website, Wendy still hadn’t created a rock garden when she showed up to an Easter event hosted by Fayette United Methodist Church.
As she arrived, kids were coloring rocks with Sharpies. Michelle Schwab, who runs a local division of Macaroni Kid, a website that features local family-friendly activities, had heard about the national project and decided to imitate it for the event.
Michelle became interested in the project, she says, “to help inspire others and bring some positive energy to the community.”
After Wendy explained her involvement, she painted her first thirty rocks. Shortly afterward, she began hosting other events throughout the community and spreading cheery rocks from grocery stores to banks.
Now, just a couple of months after the project began, Wendy is applying for nonprofit status for the Fayette Kindness Rocks Project.
Wendy, who works a part-time job and homeschools her four- and eight-year-old sons, paints 50 or so rocks a week to replenish the local rock gardens. If most rocks involve an intricate design, like a monarch butterfly, this can be quite time consuming.
But even though the project requires the energy of part-time job, expanding it is important to Wendy, she says, because everyone wants to spread kindness, but some people forget how easy it is; kindness rocks give them one simple, tangible option.
Megan, also, agrees that the project involving “so many amazing people,” provides a simple outlet for individuals to engage with each other in their communities.
“The beauty is on the local level. I feel it’s so important that people have ownership,” she explains. “We all want to know we matter—that’s the basis of this project—and everyone who joins feels like they matter, whether they’re dropping rocks off or picking them up. I want people to feel like they’re making a difference. And they are.”
To those who wonder what difference a handful of technicolored stones can do, Wendy has an answer. When she begins to talk about the community reaction, she chokes up, and pauses. She’s not trying to do anything big, she admits. But that doesn’t mean the result isn’t powerful.
“It’s just been amazing,” she says, “because I’m just painting rocks—to be kind to people.”
Blair Walker, an academic advisor at Point University and an artist, found a silver-painted rock in Fayette County on a Wednesday—and organized a painting project with his camping group that weekend.
Blair said he was struck by “that serendipitous moment” of not only finding unexpected encouragement but also continuing to be “involved in that process.”
He was so inspired that he started the West Point Kindness Rocks Project. One of his fellow campers founded a project in her east Georgia hometown, a testament to one unique property of the movement: how easy it is to spread around.
What’s next for the kindness rocks in our neighborhood? At least half a dozen businesses in the Fayette County area are interested in establishing rock gardens, and the Fayette Rocks Kindness Project has more than ten events (viewable online) scheduled through December.
As she leaves the coffee shop—monarch rock in hand—Wendy steps outside but veers to the right before she reaches her car.
“Now,” she says, “I’ve got to find a place to leave this rock.”