My husband and I like to walk along a trail that meanders through the woods. The gravel portion of this trail is closed to bikers, allowing us the freedom to take in our surroundings.
Along the way, we look for small painted rocks that have been left by others who traverse the same path. Every time I discover one of these smooth, colorful stones, I act as excited as a small child. One would think I had found a twenty dollar bill. I pick it up, admire the artwork, then turn it over in my hand to read where it has been. I have found stones from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and even Alaska.
This simple childlike quest has brought me joy during the last year in which there has been so little about which to rejoice. Disease, political violence, racial unrest, and poverty have marred the landscape of our daily existence. Searching for painted rocks is a temporary distraction from the events and images that seem determined to cause fear, frustration, and even rage. But this daily pursuit is so much more than a child’s game.
Someone I will never meet has taken the time to decorate a palm-sized rock then left it for a stranger to find and appreciate. Similar to geocaching, the idea is for that person to retrieve it and move it to another state or country for someone else to find. With so little travel happening during the pandemic, it’s a rare stone that travels beyond its state border.
The seemingly insignificant act of leaving a tiny, joyful, yet worthless gift serves to connect strangers with an unspoken greeting that says, “Hi, fellow citizen of the universe. I was here. We’re in this together. Pass it on.”
I decided to do some research into the phenomenon of painted rocks. It turns out there are websites and Facebook pages dedicated to this movement. According to paintedrocklife.com, its mission is “to spread happiness to as many people as possible through simple acts of kindness.”
I whisper a prayer of blessing for each person who has touched the rock. I place it in a new location and walk on with a smile behind my mask and a burst of warmth in my heart. Thank you, stranger. Mission accomplished!
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of four award-winning essays and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Her latest book, After Rain, is a collection of devotions offering comfort and peace in times of trial. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com