To see photos of the Kindness Rocks garden, visit here.
About two years ago, Nancy Gailor, Assistant Director at the Day Habilitation Program in Mashpee, Mass., went through quite an emotional time. She had traveled to Hawaii to be with her daughter who was preparing to give birth to twins. One of the babies required acute care and would spend weeks in the hospital; she was diagnosed with a rare, chromosomal disorder. The day the baby was released to go home, Nancy’s father died unexpectedly.
Heartbroken and distraught, Nancy returned home seeking some semblance of peace. She loved the ocean, and it was there in the tranquility of the early mornings that she began to find the peace that, in time, would ease her mind and mend her heart. Nancy began to take particular notice of heart-shaped rocks. She adored their special form and delighted in finding them. Little did she know the meaning that they would come to have in her life.
Nancy discovered that her beach is a drop-off site for Kindness Rocks, a project founded on Cape Cod by resident Megan Murphy, who took to painting and writing inspirational quotes on rocks and leaving them on beaches and in parks. Because of events in the world, Murphy was overwhelmed, uneasy, and restless, and wanted to perform a simple random act of kindness that could make a positive difference. She began receiving messages from strangers about how much the rocks they found meant to them. She encouraged others to join her in what would become a movement for kindness.
Nancy began to paint the heart-shaped rocks she found, and appreciated the serenity this brought her. Moreover, she appreciated being a part of an effort that, in all its simplicity, could change a person’s outlook or brighten his or her day. She thought that painting the rocks would be a great opportunity for the individuals served at the Day Hab program to be a part of this creative, inspirational, and positive effort.
Nancy started her garden with five rocks she had painted at home and brought them in to share with her program participants. She encouraged the individuals to create kindness rocks of their own in a garden to be placed outside the Day Hab. The initiative took off! It brought great joy to individuals and staff alike. Today, there are almost 150 kindness rocks in the garden.
“It was therapeutic for me at first, but what has given me the most gratification is seeing how involved individuals and staff got,” says Nancy. “People were making them at home and bringing them in. It was a project that our community here wanted to be a part of.”
Kindness rocks are as diverse as the people and communities creating them. Some rocks illustrate peace and patriotism, love and diversity, or friendship and fun. Others look like the sun, or are painted the colors of the rainbow. Then there are rocks with words such as, “hi,” or an important reminder, “Don’t look back, you are not going that way.” Whatever they convey, each one is unique.
According to Nancy, visitors to the program delight in reading the garden’s messages and often give compliments. “The individuals we serve feel proud and have a sense of accomplishment,” she says. “Our garden is truly a sweet spot.
“In a way, this project reinforces May’s PBIS initiative,” she continues. “It encourages positive behavior, reiterates the need for positive relationships and interactions with each other, and is another way to be nice, caring, and kind. It’s sharing positive words.
“With our world so full of violence and hate, we are spreading kindness and positivity. We’re giving back to the community. It’s all so very special, and I just love it!
“You know, birth and death are intertwined in the circle of love,” says Nancy. “In September, the baby will be two years old. She is developmentally delayed, but doctors are amazed at her progress. This journey speaks to my dad’s spirit and what he taught me. He would say, ‘Nancy, it’ll all work out, one way or another.’ And it has. I’m finding my peace.”
Today, inspiration gardens can be found worldwide. To learn about the Kindness Rocks Project, visit www.thekindnessrocksproject.com